What kind of dad did you have? Not the face he wore in public, but the dad you had at home. Was he steadfast, loving, encouraging, generous with his time and attention? Did he love your mother tenderly, deeply and show you what commitment looks like? Did he play ball with you in the backyard, or board games on Friday nights? Did he work hard for your family, mow the lawn, take out the trash and provide for your family’s financial needs? Did he attend your school functions, your sporting events, and take you out for a “date” now and again, just so he could get to know you more intimately?
Do any of us have this experience? Is it even possible?
My father loves my mother very much. He wrangled us all up to clean the house on the weekends when my mother worked, so that she would come home to peace and be able to enjoy what weekend she had left. He took me out all by myself once when I was 18 or 19 years old to a Chinese restaurant and I was beside myself. He asked me questions and told me about himself as a young adult. It remains one of my most treasured memories of my life. My father and I have a very broken relationship. He has been broken since his childhood and unfortunately, the brokenness has seeped into and affected his children and their lives in untold ways.
When I was very pregnant with our daughter, I was baptized. Just a year before that I began my serious search for Jesus. Even as a child, I had always been curious and when I delivered my first child seven years before my baptism, I also birthed a certainty that He was real – right there in the hospital delivery room. My husband and I were attending a little church in Michigan. I struggled with God for a bit, not willing to give up the “fun” I thought my life was full of, afraid of what following Him would really mean, but eventually, I gave in and asked Him to help me be who He wanted me to be. That’s when the real fun began.
I kept hearing about how loving Our Father was, but every time I did something wrong, I was sure He didn’t love me anymore. I would begin to “hide” from Him by skipping my devotion time more and more, by not praying as often, because I was pretty positive He wasn’t listening anyway. When someone asked me about my relationship with my earthly father, I began to see the connection. I was projecting the conditional love and rejection I expected from my human father onto my Heavenly Father, and since I can never be perfect or completely without sin, I was telling myself regularly that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by God. The tragedy is that, over that past many years since my self-discovery, I have found countless other Jesus followers who are struggling with the same thing, to different degrees, in their journey with Him. Their broken relationships with their fathers are having a significant impact on their relationships with Our Heavenly Father.
The truth is, I believe that if satan can attack and destroy the men in our culture, then he knows that eventually he will destroy our entire culture. He’s been at it since Adam in the garden. If we don’t have God-following men, who are willing to lay down their lives to pursue His will, then it all crumbles, doesn’t it? Children need fathers they can look to for a godly example. Wives need husbands of integrity to lead their households in deep abiding love.
So, what’s happened? How did we end up with epidemic proportions of families broken and wounded by husbands & fathers who have physically and emotionally abused them, who have betrayed their wives, who are addicted to pornography, who are more concerned about the approval of their co-workers than their families?
Is it that men are just jerks? Selfish, weak, cruel?
The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added by me).
I’ll admit to you that I struggle with this at times. When my husband displays his weak and very human qualities, I sometimes resent that he isn’t a little more Christlike (because I always am. HA!). I have this American idea in my head that he’s supposed to earn my respect. God, through Paul, made it very clear that I must respect my husband regardless of my current mood. It’s how He made men. They require unconditional respect. He infused me with a need for unconditional love and if I had to earn it from my husband or the other people I hold dear, I would be an empty shell. I know the deep and lasting wounds of feeling like I can never be enough and being unlovable because of my relationship with my earthly father. I am often not very lovable. The irony of my marriage is that for many years now, my husband loves me unconditionally and with abandon. He continually reassures me that I am worth loving, even when I am being ugly and seemingly unlovable.
We are inundated with examples of alpha females and beta men in television shows, books, and movies. Are we really surprised we’re all beginning to follow this example?
This first struck me years ago when I was watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with my husband. We were laughing uproariously at Deborah rolling her eyes at her t.v. husband, Ray, doing something childish and selfish, and frustrating his wife, as well as once again choosing to placate his mother, while his wife felt taken for granted. It suddenly wasn’t funny anymore. It hit too close to home and I felt as if I had stopped drinking the kool-aid and was seeing how harmful this mentality is to our culture at large. Yesterday, as my husband and I were watching “The Big Sick” at the Alamo, Ray Romano was playing a very similar role, and it reminded me, once again, how saturated our culture is with “dumb, juvenile husbands” and wives who tolerate them, as my fellow movie watchers continually laughed at this dysfunctional relationship on the screen. We are products of our environment to a large degree.
This is one of the main reasons we decided to disconnect our cable several years ago. I did not want my children taking in the normalized version of men on the regular, nor did I want that for my husband and me. While I’m aware it makes very little difference to the networks, I still couldn’t be comfortable with paying for something that was so destructive for my family. I wonder when exactly this trend began. Mr. Brady was a wonderful father who loved his wife and was respected by her and their children. He had faults, but he was a good guy. In the 80’s, the only show I could find that fit the theme and may have started this trend was “Married with Children.” Shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Mr. Belvedere” had strong male leads with strong women as well. Unfortunately, money voted for imbecilic men and strong, disgusted women, so this is what we see on the screen, by and large.
Here’s another theory of mine: Perhaps the mamas and daddies of the previous recent generations were raised by dictator fathers and so, on some level (consciously or unconsciously) they raised sons who are more relational, but display less leadership qualities.
I know that there are people who want to blame this on the feminist movement, but I don’t think women wanting to be leaders is a negative thing. I think the Bible has many instances of strong women. Jesus treated women with dignity and respect. I believe it is a twisted male need for control that ignores Jesus’ example of the role women should fill in our society. But, this topic is a whole other blog…
So, I want to stand against satan and protect my family, protect my husband. My part in that is to speak out when I see disrespect for men being awarded. I need to work harder at treating my husband with UNCONDITIONAL respect.
Also, I need to support movies when the lead is a strong, loving, leader. So, I should tell you the “The Big Sick” has this. Kumail Nanjiani is kind of the anti-Raymond and the story is based on his real life, so that gives me hope. He isn’t perfect, but he steps up and stands up. He’s a man with hard-won integrity. I like that.
The Bible says, “… each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) (Emphasis added).
So… in my experience, when we submit to His ways, things typically fall into place. Also, His ways usually are much easier said than done for this girl. That’s not me making excuses, that’s me admitting I’ve got a long way to go. But, I’m going… and I’m going to keep reminding myself how blessed I am to not have to earn my husband’s unconditional love. I’m also going to remember that even if he didn’t love me so completely, I am still called to respect him unconditionally. There’s no “if” in Ephesians 5:33…