There I stood. All by myself in front of a group of women I had just met the night before. They had invited me to speak about prayer and my preparation had been extensive and diligent. Hours of study had produced three forty-five minute talks and I knew my notes well. I was ready. But this segment was different! Nothing could have prepared me for on-the-spot questions…because they were, well, on the spot. A question would be picked from the basket and I would respond right then and there.
What might they want to know? What kinds of questions would they ask me?
I stood there feeling quite vulnerable, wondering what the next few minutes might bring.
But I didn’t need to worry. The questions were excellent and I answered them with the best of my "off-the-top-of-my-head" answers. It turned out to be quite fun actually. After the weekend was over I found myself thinking about some of my answers. What did I say? What might I have answered if I had more time to think?
One question and answer stood out to me:
What advice would you give to a young bride?
After the question was posed, I remembered back to a woman who offered me advice on that very topic many years ago. She said, “Keep your girlfriends. Your husband is not a girl; never has been and never will be. So keep close to your girlfriends. You need them.” As I spoke this out to this group of women, another thought came into my mind so I spoke it out as an afterthought.
"And don’t try to turn your husband into a girlfriend. Let him be a man.”
I was kind of proud of myself as I mouthed these wise and thought provoking words. Later, though, I wondered if, throughout our marriage, I had let my husband be a man. I have to admit that I didn’t do it very well at first.
My dad left our family early in my life and died when I was twelve years old. I was young and he was rather troubled and our family just hung on trying to survive. I don’t think I had any insight into healthy husband or dad behavior…or even healthy man behavior for that matter. My mother stayed single for the rest of her life.
So when we got married, it is pretty safe to say that I really didn’t have a clue how this was all going to work. I just knew that we WERE going to be a HAPPY family.
I remember having expectations for him as a husband as well as a dad, without a good role model myself. I recalled many hard discussions on how to "build a relationship”. There were days when his work-hard ethic was confusing to me and his love of exercise and sports kept him from us. In so many ways I DID want him to be different than who he was. Was I trying to turn him into a girlfriend?
- I wanted him to take the kids out on dates to talk over a hamburger. He wanted them to run with him.
- I wanted him to snuggle on the couch with them; he was more interested in wrestling.
Ummm. I wonder if that was kind of like girlfriend-turning!
After reading Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge, I came to understand my husband and sons better.
He writes," Women are often attracted to the wilder side of a man, but once having caught him they settle down to the task of domesticating him.”
I have a kind and patient husband who did all he could do to make me happy, not an easy task.
Eldridge further wrote, “They may be misplaced, forgotten or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, adventures to live and a beauty to rescue."
So, here’s the thing. After lots of years of missing the boat, and learning some things, I have come to a few conclusions.
- I don’t try to compete with sports on TV. I love it when he is happy. That is how he relaxes. That is how he lives with a competitive tension that he needs. I sit with him and sometimes read a book. He doesn’t mind. He likes me to be with him.
- I don’t insist that he take a shower every day! Oh dear, have I said too much? He is not a smelly person so it would be a hard argument on that point.
- When he complains about the conditions of the street every time we go out in the car, I have to remember that he needs battles to fight.
- When he led me on amazingly long, steep, exhausting and dangerous hikes in the National Parks, I carefully tried not to have thoughts of murder. He needs adventures to live. And hey, I survived several great escapades I would have missed out on if I had insisted on comfort and safety.
- And as for a beauty to rescue, I fit the bill. I need him desperately for all kinds of things like names I have forgotten, places we have visited, all that yard work, jars that need opening, finding and taking care of leaks in our roof, directions to anywhere we have been before and all kinds of trivia that I do not understand how one brain can hold, as well as someone who loves me as I am and cherishes me, our God and our marriage.
- My respect of him is worth so much more than trying to change him into someone he is not.
- And…focusing on what IS is so much healthier than focusing on what ISN’T.
I guess after being married for thirty-seven years, we have learned a few things that have moved our relationship into a peaceful and satisfying bond. Our faith in God’s goodness has matured also, which adds to the adventure that we enjoy. What will He do to show himself today? What can we learn today that will increase our faith? How can we show God’s kindness and grace to each other and to people around us? The ways to grow close never end!
Stepping up in front of that group of women was risky. Thankfully they were amazingly kind and the questions were not difficult. Now after thinking it over, I think this was my best answer.
But I can’t help but wonder, if the advice I gave to that young bride was really a reminder to myself.