rising to a standard of love and respect

I have been considering the next topic I want to tackle and it makes me nervous because it has to do with the female gender role. Every time I read an article, a book, or discuss the female gender role with a friend/acquaintance there is always this hoard of people who chime in about the abusive or controlling man/husband. I do realize that there are indeed those men out there and I don’t agree with that kind of behavior. However, though I know I will have to address that issue because it is one, I don’t like being a man-basher. I think men, especially the good ones, all seem to get lumped into this category of being either abusive, controlling, sexist, and violent, OR they are lazy, good-for-nothing, dead-beat, spineless losers.

I see a lot of advice, quotations, and theory posted on social media about children and the effect of bullying and belittling speech toward them. May I submit that a person – man, woman, or child – will rise to the standard to which the person whom they respect (parent, spouse, employer, etc.) sets for them. If you belittle a person, and society and family enforces this mindset, they more likely than not will conform to that standard.

An acquaintance on facebook, referring to her husband, said these words, “I wouldn’t have married him if he were that way.” and I absolutely respected that statement.

It seems to me that, at least with church girls, they want so badly to meet “the one” and get married and live “happily ever after” that they don’t stop long enough to make sure that cute Christian guy in their youth ministries class giving them that bashful look is suited for them. They just need to get that white dress, and that handsome guy to make them happy.

Ladies, before you make promises and commitments and covenants before God think about the person you are marrying and if you can deal with his personality and character. Because divorce is something that is all too common and God equates with murder. Murder.

Malachi 2:16

“For the man [woman] who does not love his [her] wife [husband] but divorces her [him], says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

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I love my husband. I chose my husband. Out of every man in the world, I decided that I would stand beside, follow, love, honor, and cherish this one. I was not coerced, forced, threatened, manipulated or anything else into the agreement and covenant. I went into it with my eyes open, with realistic expectations, and with love in my heart. I wasn’t in it for the money, for the fancy wedding, for the status, the sex, or the security. I made sure this was a man I could live with and who I could agree with. I made a commitment and promise and it was my own regardless of what may come in the future.

I told Joe something I borrowed from my cousin. “I don’t believe in divorce, but I do believe in murder.” I don’t actually believe in murder for the record. The statement was made to enforce the seriousness in which I believe in the promise, “Till death do we part.”

When I met him he was (and still is but not as much) self-depricating, and a worrier. He was finicky about food and textures, germs and dirt. I won’t go into all of my husbands flaws because I’m not here to bash him. I just want to make it clear that he has flaws, he’s weird, he’s got insecurities. All men do. If your husband has flaws, it is not an abnormal thing. And guess what? We ladies do too. Our flaws just may be different ones.

The beauty of marriage is that you have two people with both strengths and weaknesses and you work together as partners who help one another overcome. Or at least that’s what we should be doing. Instead of pointing out each others weaknesses and being bitter about it.

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I am not a farm girl. Talk to my parents sometime and they will tell you that I dream about living in the city with retail all around me, and coffee shops that are open all hours of the night. I dream of opening a cafe/bookstore in some old New England city with cobble-stoned streets. Joe’s dream is to live on a secluded farm and work to heal the land bringing forth a self-sustaining crop and having a few animals from which we receive meat, eggs, and milk. Our dreams can either compete with one another or we can make sacrifices for each other. I chose to sacrifice my dream. I also wanted a family, and being a kid in the city is not as fun as being a kid in the country. I remember being a kid in the city and longing for a big open backyard to play in.

I support my husband’s dreams and will raise my children to support that dream as well. He does not require this of me, but it certainly makes his life easier because I do.

So since I have chosen on my own to support my husband in his pursuits, to encourage him with my words, and train my children to respect him I have noticed something about him. He is changing. No, no, not into a different man. He still has all the same flaws he started out with. But he has risen to the standard of love I am setting for him. My admiration causes him to think that maybe there is something admirable in him. When I support his dreams without a complaint to having sacrificed mine (and it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice when I consider the joy my family brings to me), he is more driven to accomplishing those dreams. When I tell him he is a good husband and a father, he becomes an even better husband and father. I show him in my actions that I honor and love him by not nagging him when he doesn’t accomplish tasks I’ve asked of him, but just end up doing them myself OR respond to him in intimacy whether they are his advances or making my own. He doesn’t question my loyalty to him, his jealousy becomes less (though I do appreciate being jealous over), he trusts me because I prove myself trustworthy.

Now don’t think this is a relationship of me bending over backward to please my man. I don’t. I find what I do for my husband gives me fulfillment AND when I can’t do something I receive understanding and help. It is a partnership after all.

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When I have a rough day with the children, he steps in and reinforces discipline. Our children are being taught by him to respect their mother. When I have a home birth, my husband brags to his colleagues and friends about what a tough person I am and how he doesn’t want to mess with me. In fact, my husband brags about me a lot, which I happen to love. I love that I’m not the wife who is getting complained about among my husband’s friends. I love that my husband thinks I’m awesome. Why would I not rise to that standard of love?

I may not be a feminist. My #1 dream may be to actually be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I don’t think this should be every woman’s dream, and I don’t think it’s realistic for it to be every woman’s dream. But I do think women have choices, and I think women should be willing to carry out their end of the consequences that result from those choices. No one is making a woman get married (not in this country anyway). But if she does, she should love the jerk she chooses and make an effort to be an equal partner whatever that may look like.

Set a standard of love and be encouraging instead of nagging and bullying. If you wouldn’t like to receive it from him, don’t do it to him. This is the principle that rests at the heart of gender roles.

Matthew 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Luke 6:31

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

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a dominion attitude.

I have been thinking a lot about dominion, and the way Christians should view it. Dominion applies to so many areas of life, and it feels like a pretty daunting  idea to tackle. In fact, most of my conclusions and convictions on it are only just recently being fleshed out. I’m very excited about it, which is why I want to share my discoveries, but at the same time my mind is exploding with the possibilities and responsibilities that come along with it.

Dominion does not extend only to the earth, but to all of creation. If you think about all of creation then you must include mankind: families, the church, the homeless, orphans, widows, the unborn, unbelievers, and [place your demographic here]. You must include the behavior of mankind, and the effect of Christianity upon it – government, media, the education system, the church, humanitarian causes, etc.

Are we as Christians loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and with all our minds? Because the Bible teaches that this is the first and great commandment. I don’t mean love as a mushy-gushy, ooey-gooey, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend feeling. I mean love as an action, love as a hard choice you make, love as defined by the Bible.

1 Chorinthians 13 describes love in this way:

  • If I have not love I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. (just a lot of annoying noise)
  • If I have not love I am nothing
  • If I have not love I gain nothing
  • Love is patient and kind
  • Love does not envy or boast
  • Love is not arrogant or rude
  • Love does not insist on its own way
  • Love is not irritable or resentful
  • Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things

Are God’s law, commandments, and His will more important to us than the opinions of the pagan culture or our own desires? What is our attitude toward Him when His ways are contrary to what feels comfortable to us? What are our actions when His commands don’t coincide with our lifestyle?

Are we seeking God’s will in every area of our lives? Or are we relying on Dr. Phil, the medical community, the food industry, pharmaceutical companies, popular nutrition, the opinions of our friends, the news, etc. to tell us the best advice, choices, decisions for our lives?

Really think about this.

It is easy to be flippant without intending to be.

1 Corinthians 16:19-20 (ESV)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

According to these verses (not my own words), we as Christians are vehicles of the Holy Spirit. We are carrying God’s spirit around inside of us wherever we go!

Ahhhh!!!

We are not, as the culture tells us, our own person. Nay, we belong to Christ and were bought at a very high price. That price was the death of a perfect, innocent, sinless life. Are we glorifying God in our bodies, presenting them as sacrifices to God? Are we being transformed by the renewal of our minds, subjecting them to Christ? Or are we following our own pursuits and inviting God to sit shotgun?

We are not owners. We are stewards. Everything we have in the world is on loan. Lets take care of our lives, our time, our money, our families, homes, yards, etc. as though these are God’s possessions. As God’s possessions we should be seeking how God requires us to treat His things. He gave us an Owner’s manual called the Bible with strict and loose instructions on how to do just that. We need to be good investors in His Kingdom. If God lent it to you, take care of it like He wants you to. You may not be able to take it with you to heaven, but you are responsible for it for as long as you do have it. Treat it well.

Jesus told this parable:

Matthew 25:14-30  (ESV)

The Parable of the Talents

 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

And I’m not here saying I’m doing this right either. Oh no. I’ve got just as bad an attitude about it as the next person. I get apathetic…and a lot of the time just plain pathetic. I have bad attitudes. I rely on convenience. I flat out sin all the time. I’m not here writing some self-righteous tirade about how I’ve figured it all out and everyone else is a complete idiot. Ha. What a hypocrite that would make me.

But I’m excited.

I am learning things.

I want to share.

These things are going to hurt a lot when I act on them. They are going to go against a sinful nature, a rebellious heart, and a selfish flesh. I’m not going to be good at it.

But I’m going to try to be a good and faithful servant, so that when I meet my Maker, He tells me, “Well done.”