Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine the Brave

As a rule, men are relational dolts. From an early age girls develop sophisticated communications arrays, whereby they are able to simultaneously translate what anyone says, whether with words, expression or body language, into what they actually mean. They know from birth that when a genteel southern woman tells them, “Well bless your heart” that war has been declared. Men, on the other hand, are tone deaf and body language blind.

Women in turn understand the intricacies of social interaction. They don’t have to be told to write thank you notes; they compose them on the way home from a dinner with friends. They don’t have to be told to send out birth announcements- they start filling them out while in labor. Men, on the other hand, bring their favorite beer to a buddy’s barbecue not as a “host gift” but to make sure there is enough. We watch SportsCenter during labor.

Which is why, perhaps, western culture has constructed one day a year for us, to make it simple. We know our marching orders- a card, flowers or candy, perhaps a gift and a nice romantic dinner for two. We can do that, once, or twice, or four times a year- birthday, Mother’s Day, and the hardest one, our anniversary. When we succeed on these days we tell our wives that we really are trying. We really do love them, and want them to know. We’re fighting our man weaknesses as best as we are able.

What we ought to be doing, however, is fighting her woman weaknesses. The Bible calls us to dwell with our wives with understanding (I Peter 3:7).  Women, by and large, crave security. They are given to relational worry. When husbands and wives fight, often the husband is merely annoyed, while the wife fears the end is near.  Peter doesn’t call us to turn our wives into men, but calls men to see it from her point of view. We fight her fears by putting her at ease.

A godly husband, then is not one who four times a year takes up the aggravating task of trying to be relational, in order to keep his wife from getting grumpy. Instead a godly husband is tasked with the constant call of communicating his love and commitment to his wife. This is not a few days a year, but every day. Too often husbands get frustrated, even offended by this hard reality.  “Doesn’t she think I’m a man of my word? I promised ‘Until death do us part’ and I meant it.”

Such reasoning shows our relational weakness. She doesn’t want to know that she can count on you to grimly see your vow through to the end. She wants to know that you would make it all over again today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. She doesn’t want to know that you will stay with her, but that you want to stay with her.

A year ago on Valentine’s Day I bought my wife a nice gift, and we shared a nice meal together.  There were not candles on a linen covered table. There was no table. Denise was in a hospital bed, having been diagnosed with leukemia just days before.  Chemotherapy had already begun to erode her appetite for food. Assurance, however, she still desired.  She apologized for our surroundings for our celebration. What I heard was “Please tell me we will be okay.” I replied, “Our location is this- we are in the loving hands of our heavenly Father, who will never leave us nor forsake us. And I, by His grace, will joyfully walk with you every step of the way. There is no place I would rather be than right beside you.”

My counsel for you today is to get the flowers. Enjoy a nice meal together. But tomorrow stop, hold her chin, look her in the eye and tell her, “I give thanks to God for you. I would marry you all over again. You are a joy in my life.” And then, the day after that, do it again. Repeat.


David Bayly said...

Great advice, brother. Thank you.

Love in Christ,


Diane said...

I am deeply moved by these words. I completely relate to the truth - "she doesn't want to know that you will stay with her but that you want to stay with her." I am a woman, I do crave security and I am given to relational worry. I consider myself to be emotionally strong and spiritually secure, yet I openly confess that I need my husband to regularly affirm his love for me.

I shared R.C. Sproul's words with my husband last night. I asked him to hold my chin and look me in the eye. It was awkward - I was spontaneous, the TV was blasting and I had a sharp crochet hook in my hand at the time. But nonetheless, my husband went for it. The problem was that he held my chin with two hands like he was about to text on his Blackberry and well...every time we talk about it now, we start laughing.

The point is that we're practising and my husband said this morning, "I like this." Me too. Touching another person's head is one of the most intimate gestures a person can make. I feel cherished when my husband cups my face, looks me in the eye and without saying a word, communicates that "there is no place I would rather be than right beside you."

Thank you, R.C. Sproul Jr. for your gentle instruction and God-inspired words to love well.