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Recently my brother sent me a picture of Jackson, my 3-year-old nephew, photocopying one of his storybooks. My brother realized the reason he was doing this was because he had seen my brother making photocopies from one of his own books. Children watch and copy.
My friend, Tim, knows the patterns he lives out will be the standard his daughters will grow to expect from the future men in their lives. This is my favorite part about this post. As I think about my future sons, or even my friends’ children who are watching me, I hope the model of how I treat and speak about others is something worthy of being copied.
When I talk to Chris, my wife, I am doing more than transmitting information from me to her. Little ears perk up from behind the couch and catch every word. My words carry weight. One day, my daughters will find them acceptable or unacceptable from the boys they date and the men they marry. “My dad never talked like that to me,” they will say. At least that’s what I want them to say.
When I talk to Chris, I model for them what a loving husband sounds like. Sometimes the sound stings.
When I think about the diminishing of God’s intended brilliance in men—as fathers, husbands, workers, adventurers, lovers, life-poets, and the sacrificial lambs for their wives—I cannot hold back the shame. How I’ve blown it again and again.
I remember being alone in the truck one day during my second year of marriage and wondering out loud, “What am I doing?” I doubted my decision to marry. I doubted my ability to be what I already thought I was: a good man. I was arrogant and delusional. If beauty existed in marriage, I couldn’t find it.
When things were good, early on, they were great. When they were bad, they were downright ugly.
But now, Chris and I have waded into new waters—knee deep in our twelfth year. We continue to chase dreams and through it all, Chris and I must continue to communicate. It’s the glue to our marriage.
How To Talk To A Woman
I’m a talker. My words, however, do not always bring joy. Often, because I can wield them with pith and thrift, I bash and claw over those I love most.
Each Sunday our church sets the Communion table and then offers the wafer and the wine. We’re given time to reflect on the message and encouraged to search our souls for unconfessed wrongs.
God has taught me the power of confession through this time of Communion and reflection. I may bash and claw, but I know that I do it. I’m aware. After awareness, however, I must climb my steepest relational hill: confession. It must move from my lips first. It must pull in my love and whisper to her. This is the hardest thing a man can do.
When I hear the music play, soft and ethereal in the background, I run to God. I no longer sit in my church chair but am transported to the foot of the cross. And there he sits mangled and disfigured. He gasps for breath. The sky looks like a dark vise, pressing the life out of him.
And there hangs the thief. I can hear him confess.
I love how Billy Graham frames Golgotha. He says on the day Christ died, he became every sinner. I look at Christ again and see someone else—a prostitute, a murderer, a rapist, an adulterer, a molester, a liar, a cheater, and an everyman sinner. No matter how heinous the sin, he took it all.
There I sit at church and atop Golgotha. I see him become my sin, and then the confession comes out of me like the water from his side. I pull Chris close and whisper, “Can we pray?”
She approves and grabs my hand. I pray and thank Christ for her and the girls. In her ear I ask God to forgive my words and my unkindness. She hears me ask for his strength as I struggle to follow his way.
We don’t always need to confess during Communion—we do have good weeks. We even have great weeks. But the hard weeks, the weeks in which my words crash into Chris and the kids, I know of nothing I’d rather do than run to Golgotha.
How To Love A Woman
One professor in graduate school told me an eye-opening story about his mentor. The mentor was offered his dream job at his dream school. But his wife didn’t feel they should move. She wanted to stay. The common response from many of my evangelical friends when I asked them how they’d react was, “Well, she should follow her husband.”
But the opposite is true.
My professor told how his mentor chose, instead of pulling the family-leader card, to nail himself to the tree and die. Paul exhorts all men to die in service to their wives.7 Loving my wife and children the way Christ loves the church sounds like beautiful talk. Sometimes I feel a burst of manliness quake inside me. But if I stop and step back, I find it’s not manliness at all. It’s a pitch of lies pushing up through my old flesh: You’re the man, make them listen, make them follow, make them, make them.
I’m far away from the doubting and confused Tim in the pickup. My girls inspire me. They breathe a life in me I never thought existed. Their love beckons my true manliness. It’s not in the making. It’s in the quieting. It’s in the caressing. It’s in the playing. It’s in the wooing. It’s in the singing. It’s in the storytelling. It’s in the whispering—the whispering upon Golgotha while holding Chris’s hand: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
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