“33 years is a long time to have a parched soul,” she said.
The words, “wimpy,” or “spoiled,” do not apply to her.
Their marriage has weathered an affair, unemployment, miscarriage, 6 children, various parenting heartaches and a few bouts of depression.
And this day, she’s finally had enough.
“Every day it is the same, and at the end of it, I’m exhausted. I get home, and he bosses me around like I’m some sort of servant to him. Never a kind word for all I do. Always pointing out what isn’t perfect. He calls me names, tells me how stupid I am in front of my kids. He yells at me when things aren’t perfect. He’s never hit me, but sometimes I’m afraid of him, and I know my teenage daughter is, also. I have nothing left to give and I want this to stop.” she said.
Yes, she wanted the pain to stop. Mostly, she felt unloved.
After making sure she understood that I empathized and grieved with her over her pain, I gently asked her why she continued to wait on him hand and foot if he treated her this way.
She looked at me incredulously. “What about serving your family? What about being a good Christian wife? What about submitting to his authority?”
I looked at her, and said, “Allowing yourself to be a doormat and being resentful about serving isn’t what God intended, either. Your husband is supposed to treat you with respect as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), but you aren’t behaving as though you deserve respect.”
I’ll probably get a bunch of email and Scripture references thrown at me over what I said next.
“I don’t pretend to know your heart, whether or not you’ve righteously been Christ to this man for over 30 years or not. Nor can I know if you have truly had a “gentle and quiet spirit” as talked about in 1 Peter 3:1-7. But I do know that if you have consistently done these things, AND he feels respected by you, Revelation 2:1-7 reveals a mystery in relation to the verses in Ephesians 5, which relate to Christ’s relationship to the church. He’ll reveal to you what to do if you’re ready for it,” I encouraged her. “And by the way, you are right. This situation SHOULD stop. And God wired you for relationship – so if you don’t like the way things are, change them. But recognize that what you are doing isn’t working and hasn’t been, so yes, do something different.”
Dr. Kevin Leman wrote a book on this concept of mutual respect entitled, “Have a New Husband by Friday.” By the way, it doesn’t work if wives aren’t fully understanding and being respectful toward their husbands FIRST. (Hence The Respect Dare recommendations…) And don’t worry, I know I just said the phrase, “mutual respect” – that’s in the bible for both husband and wife, check 1 Peter 3:7 where God is specific about not even wanting to hear a husband’s prayers if he’s not treating his wife well, and Ephesians 5:33, where wives are told to respect their husbands. We need to do this unconditionally.
“God wants you to stay in your marriage. But he also wants your marriage to reflect Christ’s relationship with the church. You don’t create this by being co-dependent and enduring verbal abuse.”
With the several hundred marriages I’ve interacted with over the years in ministry, and even the thousands of people I’ve worked with in corporate America, I’m still surprised to find so many people that allow themselves to be treated like doormats, or think that being a steam roller in a marriage or parenting relationship is acceptable. For as many men and women who are doormats (usually because they don’t know what to do, but still crave relationship and deep connection) there are as many who are steam rollers, shoving their will upon those they live with, inconsiderately getting their own way regardless of who they harm in the process. Somewhere along the line, we’re missing the message that we don’t have to get our point across by raising our voices, swearing, or being nasty to others. Somewhere along the line, we’ve gone to the other extreme and decided it’s acceptable to allow others to be abusive to us.
We’ve lost the fine art of being gentle and loving and strong while dignified in our relationships.
I’ll confess in the past, I too have vacillated between doormat and steam roller, and am on a better (but not perfect! 🙂 ) path now.
I can tell you it changes everything.
Because HE changes everything, if we’ll just obey.
But few of us look like Jesus or have marriages that reflect His relationship with the church. So no wonder people don’t put give much credibility to religion – it looks like it doesn’t work.
The upcoming generation is most interested in what works. 12-30 year-olds are leaving the church emotionally and physically in droves because their belief system is the opposite of their parents. Mom and Dad (if over 40 and having grown up in the church) believe their life will work because their religious beliefs are true. Their kids these days need proof – if life works, then the beliefs are true. Check Barna.org’s info on this here. Unfortunately, the overwhelming perception is that we grown-ups are a bunch of hypocrites.
If we really believe what we say we believe but are still miserable and doing marriage and parenting badly, the challenge is in our execution of our beliefs. No, that’s not exactly true. The challenge is in our leaning on God, listening, and most importantly obeying Him, in a culture where we are so self-sufficient we “don’t really need Him.”
Today, I sense God daring us to doubt the way we’ve been doing life. Daring us to think it’s not just possible, but likely that we don’t know how to do this well. Daring us to rethink how much we obey His teachings and desire deep relationship with Him.
Check Proverbs 11 today…especially the verses on watering. Perhaps we have the wrong can in our hands, one that doesn’t bring life to our marriage, ourselves, our spouse, kids, or those who are watching…
As for me, I sometimes feel like I need a remedial course in the basics over and over again… Love God, love others, including myself…but not idolatry of self. So I’m heading back to the basics this winter. I hope you’ll join me.
Glad you are on the journey today.
Love to you,