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Jesus, Teach Me to be a Husband!

April 10, 2010

Note: This post will challenge me for the rest of my life, and it is my prayer that it may be used in your life if you are a man who is “seeking” to be a Husband after Jesus’s own heart. I’ve shed tears reviewing this post and when reading it out to my wife. Please pray before you begin to read, and if God grants you the courage, read this with your wife (or to-be-wife).

The most commonly referred passage in the Bible that talks about the husband-wife relationship and the model that God provides for them to obey, is Ephesians 5. I have read it many times, first as an unbeliever and in later years as a believer in Jesus. I struggled with it before and even after my journey with Jesus began. The passage goes like this, starting in verse 21:

Honor Christ and put others first. A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first. A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws. In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, because we are each part of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.” This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

This passage, when taken as an independent life principle, can be and has been used to justify a model of subjection-leadership for a wife-husband. I studied it for years, but could not grasp the truth in it until after the sixth year in our marriage. This post is about what Jesus taught me after and through the first five years of our marriage.

To begin with, we need to go to the first husband and wife and what happened to them and why – let’s go check out Adam and Eve.

The precious relationship that God reveals to Adam and Eve is their marriage. Eve has been created and “given” to Adam as a helper, by God. He was the first Father who gave his daughter as a bride to the groom he created from dust. He gave someone that was not created from dust, to someone who was created from dust, as a helper! And Adam was to take care of her, nurture her, protect her, nourish her, and most importantly love her more than himself. Instead, he lets her fall prey to satan’s scheming and allows her to be fooled by the serpent in disobeying God by eating from the tree that was forbidden. An obvious question to ask is, where was Adam when Eve ate the fruit? He was probably standing next to her or may be on a walk in the garden of Eden, leaving her alone. Wherever he was, the point is that he did not prevent her failure. And so, later when God discovers what they did, the “sin” of disobedience was attributed to Adam, not to Eve. The marriage that was to have a foundation of God (Jesus Christ) had the foundation of “shamefulness” instead. Because both of them hid from God after disobeying, after discovering that they were naked and were “ashamed” of their nakedness. Adam did not understand what was at stake, when God gave him Eve in the first place.

The nakedness of Adam and Eve was pure to God. And because they did not have the knowledge of right and wrong prior to eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, their own nakedness did not mean anything wrong to them. But since they chose the knowledge of good and evil versus the knowledge that God would have given them, their nakedness became something bad, something that made them ashamed of seeing each other as naked. What God had created as pure was defiled by the knowledge that they now had. Something that was meant to be pure, was defiled by the act of disobedience (their sin). Their marriage relatonship was marred because they decided to have the foundation of the knowledge of the world versus that of God (Jesus Christ).

In our marriage, we both are followers of Jesus and dearly love each other. I know that Jesus Christ is the foundation of my life. And of Uma’s life. But I had not grasped the depth of Him being the foundation of our marriage! As a result, I was not in the right place in our marriage to see it as God “wanted” to see it. He wanted me to “lead” in our marriage, just as Jesus Christ “leads” his church. However, I did not understand this concept of “leadership” well. And here’s why.

After Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounces death on them, telling them that they will not live forever and will die. And along with that God also says to Eve that “your husband will rule over you”. I struggled with this verse. Was I suppose to rule Uma as the leader in our marriage? I did not think so. In all honesty, I did not want to accept it that way. That is not my nature. However, it is God’s word and it must have some good intentions, since God pronounced this.

I was attending couple’s Bible studies, reading scripture, seeking an understanding of leadership that God expected, and avoiding to “rule” in our marriage. I desired to understand what “rule” meant, from the bottom of my heart. There was absolutely nothing in our marriage that made Uma feel like I am constraining her. She had (has even now) freedom in our marriage. And in my heart I knew that she had the right to that freedom. She was an equal heir to the Grace available to her in Jesus Christ. There’s this verse in 1 Peter 3:7, which goes like this:

Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life.

This made me all the more confident that “rule” did not mean treat her of lesser value or any less capable. How can she be weaker and be an equal heir at the same time? That means, being weaker means something else than what I would naturally like to think what it means.

She has the same life of Jesus Christ that I had, because we both love the Lord dearly and considered him as the Lord of our lives. In fact, her love for Him was at times more intense and stronger than mine! So how could I “rule” her? There must be something that God wants me to understand, than what I would like to understand. And most likely I had not seen enough in our marriage, to make me see it clearly. And so I waited for God to help me understand it, instead of looking for some instant understanding by reading a book or counseling with someone about it. Looking back, I wish some believer husband who is walking closely with the Lord and has aged in their marriage would have probed me on how I am leading in our marriage and showed me how he was doing it, so I could have avoided many foolish mistakes! Why have the followers of Jesus Christ forgotten to actively disciple others who are just beginning to walk with Him, with real life interactions and how Jesus’s teachings are being lived out in humility? (that’ a separate post, won’t digress much here)

The Ephesians 5 passage quoted above, confused me from time to time. However, I was learning to be patient with God’s word and let it reveal the truth to me in due time. And so we mutually made many decisions and I made some of them unilaterally, and Uma either followed because of her own understanding of what submission to me meant or because she did not want to fight over it. The good thing was that decisions were getting made – and that is what mattered. Or so I thought. God was after something else.

If we look at the early interaction between Jesus and his disciples, we get some clues about this. Disciples asked, “Where are you staying?” and Jesus said, “Come and see”. Then they stayed with him for some days. Why did Jesus do that? He wanted them to see and experience him intimately, like he knew his Father intimately. He did not want to hide anything from them. It was this intimacy that kept them going – and helped them trust the Lord of their life. They did not understand everything that Jesus taught over next 3 years, but they understood how deeply the Lord was interested in them, and cared about them. He invested in them. And did not hide anything, at least what they could understand was not hidden.

It was the year 2005. Through unusual circumstances God brought the book, “Every Man’s Marriage” in my life. The book began the work of challenging me as a husband in Christ! God was not going to be satisfied with just few A grades on my marriage report. He wanted to see lots of A’s. While I was reading it, I shared a lot with Uma. After I had finished reading it, even she read it. God had begun his cleansing and had given me the gift of true repentance. However, what he was calling me to do next was harder than my repentance to him.

God called me to become accountable to Uma for my actions and my thoughts – all of them. But that did not happen overnight. God continued to work in my heart for over a year. By then the Lord had prepared me to not be afraid of the questions like what will she think of me if she sees in my heart what I do not want her to see? Will she love me still? How will she react?

God wanted me to open my heart to Uma, a man’s heart. A self operated Open Heart Surgery, with God’s help and no anesthesia. And I did. After taking it all in, Uma’s words were – “You are a Godly Man!” And in doing so, Jesus taught me the value of “oneness” through her!

When we draw closer to Jesus Christ, and make our lives accountable to Him, he draws even more closer to us. Our sin does not push us away from Him, but he uses it to draw closer. A leper is touched by the Lord so he can worship Him. In the same way, we as husbands need to have the confidence in the Lord that if we make ourselves more and more accountable to the Lord, and in turn seek courage so that we become more accountable to our wives, through that we will be drawn closer to each other. Most importantly, because through those acts of forgiving and accepting each other as sinners, we together as husband and wife will grow in the knowledge of the grace of God available in Jesus Christ. That is the purpose of Jesus calling us to oneness, in Him, to help us see his Grace!

Soon after that phase of becoming transparent to Uma, a new era of love, honesty and transparency entered my life. I made her my “accountability” partner. Finally, Ephesians 5 was becoming clear in a very different way. God was using Uma in my life to cleanse me thoroughly and teach me how to be a leader. Within a year I understood myself better than I did until that time. It was the year 2007 when God was delivering me in a fresh way. Here’s what God started to do:

– helping me not judge Uma

– do not be afraid to ask what she expects from me – and be humble

– helping me control my anger

– improving my skills as a listener

– communicate all the matters, simple or complex, without pre-conceived reactions from her

– even simple things like looking at Uma and paying attention when she’s talking to me

– just simply adoring her as the most valuable person in my life

– take time to think about our special dinner “dates” and help me look forward to them as a sweet time of fellowship

– trusting that she has the spirit of Jesus Christ that guides and guards her heart

– respecting her because she is an equal heir to the Grace of God in Jesus Christ

– understanding that I cannot sacrifice her on the altars of my “job”, “watching tv”, “sports”, “pride”, and even my “mother”

– helping me to understand what is at stake, when God gave her to me in Christ!

– drilling into my head that it does not matter what others think of me, but what my wife sees me as, when I am exposed in the light of Jesus Christ

– realizing that Uma is the most important person in my life, forever! (of course, after Jesus Christ!)

I started “seeing” my place as a husband in our marriage. Uma had also been patient with me (and continues to this day!), as I was discovering what kind of leader she and God wants me to be in our marriage. How she expects me to lead and enrich her spiritual walk, while we both walk with Jesus. And as it became clear over next couple of years, I rediscovered the ultimate leader – Jesus Christ – in a fresh way. He is the blueprint of the kind of leader God wants me to be – A Servant Leader. He first took up the cross, shed his blood, and then said “Follow Me!”. He never said, “You must”, instead he gave the choice after sacrificing himself, and if you decide to follow him, he “becomes” your leader. Not otherwise.

Let me repeat – God wants me to be A Servant Leader – in our marriage. A leader who serves, before he leads. And so I read Ephesians 5 again, but started with the verse for Husband and not for Wife. Let’s see what it says, again:

A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws. In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, because we are each part of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.” This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

God has given me Uma so I can keep her “pure”. I have to treat her body as mine. I have to have the right understanding of “intimacy” and treat her like a most prized and delicate vessel that God has given me as a helper. I have to maintain her “spotless”. My love for her needs to be more than how much I love “myself”. And most importantly, God has called me to become “one” with her. If I needed to do all this – I must die to myself, daily. I need to put her first, before my interests and my selfish desires.

And when I do all that, why would she not be willing to be in subjection, as the scripture describes? And this subjection is not of an inferior kind – in fact, it is to help me be pure. By her subjection, I’m convicted more and more to serve her and to lead her. If I am entrusted with “preserving” and “nurturing” her in Jesus Christ, what an amazing purpose we both are subjecting to!

Just before verse 22, verse 21 says this – “Honor Christ and put others first.” Another translation says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This means, we are called into mutual submission that culminates from our submission to Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives. If I am in submission to Jesus, and Uma is submitting to Jesus, and she understands that I am called to preserve her in Christ, and I understand that she has been given to keep me pure – Why will any of what Ephesians 5 says, be difficult for us to obey and practice as husband and wife?

Lastly, God started revealing to me what it means to have “fellowship” with your wife. Jesus Christ was in continuous fellowship with his Father while he was on earth. In heaven he was in the bosom of the Father. On earth he was not in the Father’s bosom. And so he prayed to maintain that closeness. In John 17, Jesus talks about his oneness and the fellowship that comes out of it, with the Father. God was challenging me on the same front. My time with Uma after we retire from the day was an important time of fellowship. Our prayer life was not merely a time of running through our “list” and putting people in front of God. Our conversations about the Bible and Jesus were not limited to our individual personal walks with the Lord. We were being continuously called to fellowship with one another – feed each other the love of Christ and the word of Christ. And I was not doing that enough (and still need lot of work in that area!). In fact, I was not doing that at all, if you asked me. And it was because I clearly did not understand and did not have the conviction that I was called to do that! I was to “wash” Uma pure with the “word”, like Jesus did to the Church. That was some profound truth that did not penetrate my so called smart brain for years!

God finally delivered me in our marriage. After 8 years of marriage, he has given both of us an understanding of what my servant leadership means to Uma through our marriage. Next, God started to introduce sweet “fellowship” in our marriage. I started to look forward to being together with Uma after a hard day’s work. On my way from work I would pray that God help me remove all work related thoughts and as I enter our home, help me to give myself to Uma! It is a journey of progressive growth as a husband in Christ, so I am not claiming to have all this working. I am under construction as a husband, however I am glad to have discovered that knowledge of being “constructed”.

We truly have begun our new journey as a couple and I am so thankful to Jesus Christ for teaching me to be a husband, the kind that he wants me to be – by living his life that lives in me and being a servant leader and being in mutual submission. And even further, to watch so that my Eve remains focused on Jesus Christ, the foundation of our marriage!

Someone recently asked me if there is any purpose in marriage. Why should one get married? Why cannot a life that has not been joined with someone else, be fruitful and enjoyable?

The Bible talks about single people, who never got married. They were called for a special purpose. And if God has called you to be single, and has confirmed that to you in ways that I cannot fully understand or want to even understand, go ahead with that decision. However, God has also placed a greater emphasis on “marriage”. He meant it to be a “fruitful” relationship, beginning with the first marriage between Adam and Eve, and ending it with the last marriage between Jesus Christ and His Church. The institution of marriage is a mystery hidden in Jesus Christ, and if you are willing to have Him as the foundation for your marriage, you will see the grand purpose God has for this relationship.

Marriage is God’s institution and it will serve the purpose of purifying his people for himself, by making them subject to one another in Christ and helping the husband to be a servant leader to his wife. Through marriage God wants to introduce us to the kind of fellowship that he truly wants us to enjoy. If you are a single man, pray that God will give you a bone of your bones. If you are a single woman, pray that God will give you a servant leader. If you are already married and are followers of Jesus, while seeking the joy in a marriage, please be praying that God helps you both to start becoming honest, transparent, and ask each other the hard questions that you may be hesitating to ask out of fear or shame. Most importantly, you husbands, pray to the Lord that he may touch you and start the healing process in you first so you can see what is at stake when God took your wife out of you and gave her to you. The stakes are high, dear husbands, but take courage because Jesus is there to teach you, if you are willing and ready to humble yourself.

And finally, if you are already married but do not have the foundation of Jesus Christ, I plead that you take a hard look at whatever your philosophy or beliefs or convictions are and honestly seek if they provide the kind of marriage that brings glory to God. You may have witnessed your parent’s or your friend’s marriages that are good and healthy. Commons sense, when applied with practice, produces peaceful and enjoyable relationships. However, I will contend that the one built on “dying to self”, “servant leadership” and “sweet fellowship” deserves some serious attention too. Your choice.

We have a long way to go in our marriage still. God is now guiding us on a new journey of “parenting” with the right foundation for our marriage and teaching us a lot that way. We have just begun. And I trust that He (Jesus) who began this good work in us will take it to completion.

All glory to Him, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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