A Break In Routine
Normally, I write my posts on Saturday nights and publish them on Monday morning. This week, on Saturday night I’ll be speaking to the “Single Life” ministry from Living Hope Church in Vancouver. These are the notes for my presentation.
John Gottman, a marriage researcher, is able to predict divorce with almost 90% accuracy. He bases his predictions on the presence of four behaviors. He calls them the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
- Criticism is complaining about behavior by attacking a person’s character.
- Contempt is name-calling, insults, or harboring a bitter attitude.
- Stonewalling is withdrawing from a negative interaction, or giving the silent treatment.
- Defensiveness is playing the innocent victim.
All marriages have some of the horsemen, some of the time. The question is not, “are they there?” The question is, “how often are they there?” Or, “how intense are they?”
I think that if you are in the process of becoming a person worth marrying, these issues will be less present in your life than they would otherwise.
Bonus: To help you take action on this post, I’ve made a small worksheet for you to measure how frequently the “horsemen” show up in your life. It also measures how frequently you are loving, instead of “apocalyptic.” Click here to download it.
Models of Marriage
Within Christianity there are three models for marriage.
- In the Patriarchal Model, the man is the loving head of the house, and the woman submits to him. The man handles all final decisions. Conflict comes when the man is either overbearing or passive. People expecting this model tend to struggle with either contempt or stonewalling.
- In the Egalitarian Model, all responsibilities are divided equally. Without any regard to individual strengths or weaknesses. Conflict comes when one person believes the other is not contributing equally. People expecting this model tend to struggle with either criticism or defensiveness.
- In the Complimentary Model, each person handles his or her areas of strength. In areas of mutual strength or weakness, they will tend toward one of the other models. Conflict comes when there is disagreement on which other model to default to.
- Examine yourself for which horsemen you tend to bring into a relationship.
- Know how you naturally respond to the horsemen.
- As Christians, pick the model of marriage that you believe is biblical.
- If you are attracted to someone who prefers a different model, consider how that will impact your relationship.
In The Beginning
The first marriage in the Bible occurs at Creation, between Adam and Eve.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. – Genesis 1:26-27
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
I am not going to unpack this in detail because I want to focus on Proverbs 31. But I do want to pull three points from this that I believe we should use as our lenses to interpret Proverbs 31.
- Men reflect God’s image through masculinity.
- Women reflect God’s image through femininity.
- Marriage reflects God’s image through unity.
That “unity” factor is one reason I prefer the complementary model of marriage. I do not find the patriarchal or egalitarian models to produce marriages characterized by unity.
Another important point here is that marriage is the metaphor. The image reflector. Marriage is not the point. Experiencing godly marriages help us to understand God. Experiencing God does not necessarily help us to understand marriage. However, God gives us a template for godly marriage in the Bible.
The Ideal Couple
In my life, I have often heard about Proverbs 31 on Mother’s Day. In that context, the message usually thanks mothers for being like the woman in Proverbs 31. The call to action is to husbands to love and appreciate their wives; and to children to love and appreciate their mothers – which is a great thing.
Other times when pastors preach from Proverbs 31, the call to action is to women to be “Wonder Woman.”
In the first part of Proverbs 31, we have King “Lemuel” writing down wisdom passed to him from his mother. Scholars disagree on just who Lemuel is; some think he is King Solomon. Others think he is a foreigner.
You may already know that Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba. Bathsheba was King David’s wife only through adultery and murder. I think Proverbs 31 is in scripture to illustrate how God redeems even the most heinous of sins. I think Solomon signed it with his nickname in his shame over how his parents’ marriage began.
Regardless, God compelled Solomon to write this down for our benefit. He would not have done that if in the end, David and Bathsheba did not look like this couple. Whether or not this passage is based on David and Bathsheba, it is written down for general benefit. The woman is the focus of the text, but the man is clearly in the subtext. We can conclude a lot about the man by how Solomon describes the woman.
I think the purpose of this passage is to show us an example of a strong, godly marriage, redeemed from sin.
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
A complementary marriage is characterized by trust. Trust is both offered and earned. We get to look at this couple many years into their marriage. But we know that trust develops over time. Trust is risky. We see that their risky trust is rewarded with “no lack of gain.”
A woman like this is incredibly hard to find. Many men are shallow, and look only for charm or beauty. Many women want to deliver charm and beauty because that is what gets them noticed. Few men look for character, and the fear of the Lord, so few women deliver it. This man was wise. He looked for character and the fear of the Lord. He found a treasure more precious than jewels because he was not fooled by a fake.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
She works HARD, both inside the home and outside it. Again, because he trusts her. He encourages and empowers her. He gets to eat well because she “provides food for her household.”
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She is fashionably dressed and fit. Both in character and body. He does not complain when she goes shopping. She has the character of self-control, not to overspend. When she comes home and tries on her new clothes, she looks good, and he likes it.
When she goes out, she does not look depressed. She has a good sense of humor. She exudes joy. People in public see her as dressed with strength. They hear her laughter and happiness and hope for the future. Anyone seeing this woman would know that she is loved and appreciated at home.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She is generous and charitable. Not only with their possessions but also with her knowledge and wisdom. He does not complain when she gives. He appreciates it. He does not tear her down. He does not assault her credibility. He builds her up.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her home is well maintained and well decorated. He fixes things without complaining, or he pays for them to be fixed. We also get the idea she is just as comfortable working with contractors or laborers as he is. She is business savvy, she is tool savvy, and she is not going to be taken for a ride. He trusts her a lot. Because he trusts her, he does not have to worry about being cold.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
Up until now you might have been wondering what the man does outside the home. The supportive husband is not merely a cheerleader for his wife. He is a businessman (the gates were the place of business). He also has some political pull “when he sits among the elders of the land.”
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
I suspect that this man’s praise for his wife is not only given in private. He sets an example for his children by building up his wife in public. Because of his example, they do the same. I think it is this part that makes this such a great Mother’s Day text.
Christ and the Church
Let us look at a marriage that is not real in the flesh and blood sense. However, it is real in the spiritual sense. Proverbs 31 is a great example of a complimentary marriage, but this one is even better. In this marriage, Jesus Christ is the example for the man to follow.
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:23-33
This passage is confusing because it uses a mixed metaphor. In one metaphor, Christ is the physical head of the body. In the other metaphor, Christ is the corporate head of the church. In yet another metaphor, Christ is a groom to a bride.
Remember that Marriage is the metaphor. Jesus’ love for His people is the point. It can be tempting to mix those up.
Christ loves sacrificially. Christ exercises authority for the benefit of His body and His bride. “That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor…”
What bride ever would argue with a brighter, whiter dress? Or fancier hair and nails, and spa treatments before her wedding?
Christ plays his “headship card” only to spoil His bride to get her ready for the wedding. Men, if you ever play the headship card in your marriage, this is the example you are to follow.
As you look for a wife, and once you have a wife, work hard to follow Christ’s example of headship. Work hard and pray that He will redeem your masculinity from fallen selfishness to Christ-Like selfless sacrifice.
As you look for a husband, and once you have a husband, work hard to follow Christ’s example of submission to the God the Father, and the Church’s example of submission to Jesus Christ. Work hard and pray that He will redeem your femininity from fallen perfectionism to Christ-like simplicity.
Surround yourself with men and women in godly marriages. Experiencing godly marriages even second hand will help you to experience and understand God’s holiness. Understanding God’s holiness will help you to see your own sin. Seeing your own sin will help you to see your need for Jesus. Seeing your need for Jesus will help you to become more like Him.