(Photo: Dan Delzell)
When you were born, you already had the God-given inclinations to be a successful husband or a successful wife. God's design for marriage was ingrained in you. It was in your DNA before you could even speak a word. Unfortunately, you were also born with some "messed-up" desires, and so was I. Marriage seems tougher today than perhaps ever before, and man's sin is what messes up marital harmony. Sin messes with our mind....and with our choices....and with our everyday interactions with our spouse. But God will help anyone who looks to Him for healing of the heart....and for wisdom in marriage.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you today with your marriage? The problems that develop within marriage are never the result of God's design, but only because of our choices and our unwillingness to apply basic dating etiquette in our relationship with our spouse.
God gave men and women an inborn sense of what role to take in order to make the relationship satisfying, and we see that reality played out everyday through basic dating etiquette. God's design for the roles of husband and wife are illustrated in the example of two adults going out on a date.
It is intrinsic in us that the man is to open the car door for the woman....and not the other way around. In fact, just imagine the woman opening the door for him! It's not natural....it's not pleasing to the eye....and it is not the way God designed it. Man's role is to graciously open the door....and the woman's choice is to accept and follow his lead by stepping into the car....if indeed she feels persuaded to do so with that man. The man leads....the woman follows....both are choices....both are voluntary....both are natural....and part of the design God set up.
People sometimes get offended when presented with the biblical language about a wife "submitting" to her husband. But there is no need to freak out over that teaching in Ephesians 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. We simply need to understand it in light of God's design and in light of our inborn dating DNA.
The husband's role is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church. (Eph. 5:25) How did Christ love the church? He gave Himself away continually, and He died for His "bride," that is, for those who believe in Him and follow Him as Savior and Lord. If a husband does that everyday....and continues to graciously "open the door" for his wife in every area of their relationship....his wife will then be motivated to fulfill her God-given role of "stepping into the car" of his leading....while finding satisfaction in her role and in his love.
Just look what sin has done to men and women in our world. Sin leads a man to objectify women in general....rather than to love his wife in particular. Sin leads men to seek satisfaction in pornography and strip clubs....rather than in faithfulness within Christian marriage. Sin leads men to be domineering as husbands and to act as the "dictator of the home." That is not God's way....and that is not a result of the inborn dating etiquette which God planted within us. It is the result of our sinful tendencies and our selfish desires to have things "my way."
Likewise, sin leads women to embrace radical feminism rather than the role of a Christian wife. Radical feminism seeks to change the rules....and change the inborn dating etiquette into something much different than God's design. This leads women into a place of anger....and hostility toward men....and some women even fall into the trap of a lesbian lifestyle as they seek out a different path than the one God set up.
Christian marriage is not satisfying when the husband or the wife, or both, are getting away from basic dating etiquette. The problems generally, but not always, begin with the husband. God designed for him to be the spiritual leader of the home. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church." (Ephesians 5:23) Being the spiritual leader does not mean being a micromanager of his wife. Many men have gone way off the reservation in their attempts to get their wives to submit to them. God never told these men to do such a thing. God told them to graciously open the door....that's it....not to demand that their wife respond in one way or another.
Many men have wrongly used the Bible verses about wives submitting....as they have sought to apply these verses in a manner that is not filled with love....but rather, is all about control and dominance. Picture this scene.....two young adults going out on a date....he goes to the door and greets her....they walk to the car....and then he demands that she get in the car. What a warped approach to dating....and how much more warped when that attitude gets displayed in the holy relationship of a Christian marriage. Who does that guy think he is to attempt something so preposterous and so arrogant?
Jesus Himself....the King of Kings and Lord of Lords....didn't lead his disciples that way. He led His bride with love....and by example....in humility....and in service. And that was God in the flesh. He had every right to be domineering if He wanted to be....but He didn't want to be....and He wasn't....instead, He was giving us an example of how we are to love one another....and how a husband is to love his wife.
"In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church, for we are members of his body." (Eph. 5:28,29) A man who isn't gentle with his wife is a man who needs God to do a transformational work in his soul before he can ever hope to be a good husband.
Many aspects of our culture today seek to portray the role of a man as that of a sissy. This does much harm to boys and men of all ages. It tempts men to be weak rather than meek. Weakness destroys marriages. Meekness, on the other hand, is strength under control. Weak men do not lead in love....and they do not open the door the way they did when the two of them were dating. These men change into something else entirely....and it is ugly. Sissies and brutes are equally unattractive as husbands. No wonder she isn't thrilled to step into the car anymore. That doesn't remove her God-given responsibility or his God-given duty....but it does make it next to impossible for either of them to find satisfaction in their marriage....and to please God with their relationship.
Jesus always led his bride toward spiritual health and vitality. That is the only way a husband today can fulfill the role God has given him. That begins by having the man kneel at the foot of the cross and "submit" his life and his soul to his Creator and Savior. When a man accepts Jesus as Savior, he is ready to launch into marriage if and when God leads him to do so. If a man is not following God's lead, he is sadly ill-equipped to provide spiritual leadership in his home. He is not able to "open the door" except when he wants something in return. That kind of "conditional kindness" is part of man's flesh, or sinful nature, but not part of a Christ-centered marriage.
The love of God led the Lord to come to earth to die for sinners like us. The love of God within the hearts of husbands and wives moves them to love one another unconditionally....and persistently....even through times when their spouse is behaving "in the flesh" rather than "in the Spirit." Living "in the flesh" results in a life that is controlling and unloving, as well as selfish and uncaring. The fact that a fun date can eventually turn into a mean marriage is proof positive that men and women are sinful....and prone to straying off into selfishness rather than staying on the narrow road of love.
When men don't lead their family to Christ, everyone in the family suffers. When men stop opening the door.....and instead just bark demands....everyone in the home pays for it. If a man is fulfilling God's role for him....but his wife is refusing to follow God's plan for her life....then she is the one who is causing all the anger in her heart and the discord in their home. Men and women are equally sinful....and equally capable of rejecting God's plan and ignoring the inclinations which God placed in our DNA.
It's easy to see God's plan when you look in the Scriptures. Even if you have not yet surrendered your life to the infallibility of God's Word and His plan of salvation, you can at least begin by considering your inborn dating DNA. That will give you many clues about how you can find satisfaction in marriage. Just do it that way....everyday....in every conversation with your spouse....and in every decision the two of you make. Date your spouse all over again....everyday....and you will keep the flame alive. Ultimately, it will take a relationship with Jesus Christ through faith....and a daily experience of His grace....in order for you to find true peace and spiritual fulfillment in the unity of marriage.
Dating is easy. Marriage is hard work. Dating usually displays good etiquette. Marriage can easily slip into terrible etiquette. Dating is temporary. Marriage is intended to last for life. But that doesn't mean your marriage has to lose the spark you experienced while you were dating. In fact, that spark will turn into a fire if you and your spouse rely upon God's love and His design for your home.
My friend....God created you to be male or female....and he embedded in your DNA the role that will lead you and your spouse to work well together as a team....and bring much satisfaction to both of you. So what areas of your marriage need to experience better etiquette? Just go back to God's blueprint....and experience for yourself why He set it up this way for the joy and benefit of your marriage.