Sometimes I’ll hear a speaker make a self-deprecating remark. It’s usually intended to disarm his audience, help us understand that he’s one of us, or perhaps to illustrate a convicting point in a way that won’t get our defenses up since he uses himself as the target. Not infrequently, his remark is followed by words to the effect of “Don’t believe me? Just ask my wife.” This gets him a laugh, and the message moves on to the next point. If I know the couple and their relationship, I may laugh along.
I recently heard a speaker give a message that was powerful and sound, and something I need to apply in my life. But when he made a negative comment about himself, followed by “just ask my wife,” I opened my mouth automatically to laugh, and then frowned instead. Why would his wife tell me his shortcomings and failings? Does she broadcast them to everyone? Is his humor hiding a bleeding heart? Why would a woman do that to her husband?
**eta: No, I don’t really think his wife would do something like that to him, and I’m glad to learn that indeed his wife is a wonderful lady who is quite discreet. I did not at all mean to cast aspersions on her character, though I obviously implied that I thought it possible that she was quite a terrible wife in my harsh interpretation of his light comment’s possible meanings. I thoughtlessly made this couple the focal point of my frustration with something that is a part of Western culture, and illustrated that I am very much a member of the “saying things to make a point that come across completely wrong” club. I’m sorry, for both the accidental (could I have avoided?) and the thoughtless (my fault! should have avoided) offense.**
During the Spring Festival holiday, I was incredibly blessed to attend the wedding of a fellow American woman here – I don’t know her well, but would very much like to call her a friend – to a wonderful Chinese man. Her family flew over from America and her father spoke at the beginning of the ceremony, basing his remarks on the fifth chapter of Ephesians. In American culture, the idea of a woman being required to submit to a man is anathema, completely offensive. Inside, I waged a short war between my cultural upbringing and the Truth that I claim to believe, before I could re-focus on his message. But the exhortation he gave to them, though in parts hard for me to swallow, also gave a very clear summary of our needs as women and men. For a woman, it is easier to give love, because love is what she needs. For a men, it is easier to give respect, because respect is what he needs. So the woman must work hard to give her husband respect, and the man must work hard to give his wife love.
This truth I have seen elsewhere in ><> writings and the Word, but her father summed it up so neatly!
And I have seen the absence of this truth reflected clearly in Western culture. I remember my father once complaining about the reversal of roles in the comic strip “Blondie.” Originally, Blondie was a blonde ditz with a responsible husband; in my lifetime, it’s always been the other way around. That was maybe the first time my awareness of how men are portrayed in society was put into words. So often, the husband and father in the sitcom, movie, or comic strip is shown as worthy of little respect, the butt of jokes, ignorant of his family’s needs, good for nothing but putting a roof over their heads. Why must there be anyone in that position, and why have we chosen the man wear that stigma? Is it because the Enemy knows that, for men, belittling them and stripping them of respect is one of the most wounding things you can do?
I am not married, but I hope to be someday. From the outside, looking in, this I know: When I am married, I hope and pray that I will be supportive of my husband. That I will not mock him in front of others, complain about his habits to my girlfriends, laugh heartily at jokes that put him down, nor allow our children to show him disrespect. I know he will not be perfect, that we will have our differences, and that there will be times when each of us fails to respect the other, fails to love the other. But I claim now that, with the grace of our Father, I will do my utmost to obey in love the command that “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”