Being a Passive Husband

husband signI get it. An author sits down and writes a book about marriage. He takes a moment to pray and consider how he will assist couples through the difficult waters of marriage. He wants to encourage men to be leaders in their homes who are worth following, but he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to encourage an abusive husband to be even more abusive. It would break this author’s heart get a letter from a wife who was beaten by her husband after reading his marraige book.

So he writes his book and it is a best seller. It really breaths life into many a marriage and shows many pushy jerks of husbands how to be compassionate and thoughtful husband who hears his wife. Many marriages are helped by his timely and thoughtful words.

Except mine.

You see, in my marriage, I am the wimp. Many of you who know me are scratching your heads, “What, no way! Chip is pushy if he is anything.” You’re right to say that, but this is true in almost every relationship except with my wife. The way I have learned to work with her is under the very reliable code of “Don’t Do Evil.”

This plan looks really good on paper. The author mentioned above can rest assured that I will never beat my wife or abuse her. In fact, many societal ills would be helped if more guys were passive like me. Much of the crime and violence in the world would be much reduced. Sounds great, right?

It’s fine unless you are my wife. She was hoping to get a husband who was assertive enough to lead in our home. She didn’t ask for a passive husband who simply didn’t make waves. God will not judge me simply on the evils I failed to do, but on the good I did.

So, ever ready with the marriage book, I can hear the real answer, Leadership!

That is a fine answer, I just don’t really know what leadership is. If I were fundamentally more capable at most of life than my wife, it would be easier, but I married the lady who is really good at life and family and just about everything else. She is driven and capable and were she to enter the corporate world, I would soon be working for her.

I am very grateful she has taken all of that superior talent and drive and is an amazing mother and wife. Not every guy is so blessed, but it does leave me in a bit of a lurch. I am not confident in my own abilities and judgement compared to hers. Sure I am competent, but in most of life, she is excellent.

Is the competent guy really going to forcefully challenge the excellent lady?It is easy to just let it ride. Really, peace is much better than being right. Whatever it takes for peace. I may not know what it is to be a leader, but I know that this is not it. So I am back to where I started, trying not to fail. Wouldn’t it be great to be trying to succeed and not simply avoiding failure? Maybe I should read a marriage book.

But every author is so concerned with not setting off Mr. Abuse that many of them don’t have much for me. Where is the marriage book for the wimp? There aren’t any. In addition, many Christian Marriage books seem like manuals for suffocating my wifes wonderful talents and gifts. That can’t be the way marriage was meant to be: the place where my dear wife goes to be less than she can be.

So, to all the wimps out there, I don’t have all the answers for you. I know you are out there because I know many of you. We have bought into the lie that avoiding failure is the most important thing. So here are the few answers I have found in my few years of marriage. I hope that they are helpful to you.

You are Loved by Your Daddy in Heaven

This may feel like a non-sequitor, but I think the most important thing we need to do is be willing to take a risk of failing. It is easy to say, “take a risk” and it is hard to do it. What has helped me? It is knowing that my God will honestly, tenderly, kindly, and sweetly love me if and when I fail. He will not be angry with me even if my wife is. If God is for me, who can be against me.

This has been a source of immense courage. Jesus went to God when he was afraid and asked for the pain to end or the courage to face it. This should be a common prayer for us wimps.

Leadership is the Same Thing as Initiative

Leadership is a painfully vague word that makes me imagine a general commanding an army with confidence and boldness. This is totally unattainable for me. I can’t be that guy, particularly at home.

Fortunately, I don’t think God is asking me to do that. What he is asking is for me to bring my thoughts and concerns forward? To be the first to say something. In fact, I think he is asking me to bring up things when I am not sure I am right and where my motives are clouded. One of the most paralyzing forces in my life is my introspection of my motives. Sometimes, I need to just say how I think and feel and take the risk of being completely wrong.

Leaders Apologize

One of the mantras of leadership is that it takes responsibility for the situation. I’m not sure what the means. I’m responsible enough. I mow my lawn and hug my kids and wash the dishes. I show up to work and come home.

Certainly part of taking responsiblity is to go press on through the requirements of life to care for my family, but taking responsibility is more than that. It is the feeling that the problem is my problem. It is the urge to correct the problem and maintain the solution. It is the drive in my heart to make Earth just a little more like Heaven.

In a real sense, taking responsibility is the same thing as the urge to apologize for the failure and weaknesses of my life, my home, and my community. It is the sense of ownership of the problem that does what is necessary to fix (or at least try). My natural bent is to avoid problems because I can then be blamed for the failure to solve them. If my fingerprints aren’t on it, then when it goes wrong, no one can blame me.

This is yet another variety of avoiding failure and not seeking success.

Recognize the Strengths of Being more Passive

There is a myth that I have believed that passivity is all weakness. Many Fruits of the Spirit give the appearance of weakness: gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control. Many passive men and women excel in these virtues and far from being weak, they are a serious strength. My family is well-served if I am steady and reliable, gentle and affectionate.

Recognize the Weaknesses of Being more Passive

As with every character quality, passivity has a dark side. Much of maturity is to capitalize on your strengths while blunting your weaknesses. To effectively blunt the harms of my passivity I must know what they are!

I need to face the fact that many times my family needs me to resist my overly cautious nature and do what I think is right. Some men are too quick to act, I am too slow to act. Maturity for them is to slow down and think. Maturity for me is to consider and move forward even when I am uncertain.

Look for Contexts in Life Where You are More Confident

While I am more passive at home, I am much more confident and assertive in certain church contexts and at work. What’s the difference between them?

In exploring why I am more comfortable in some settings has been quite fruitful. It is good to see places where my natural leadership strengths show themselves. It is confidence building to just know that those places exist.

A Few Final Thoughts

I fear that someone will read this article and conclude that my wife is a battle-axe of a woman. She has her sins, but I feel immensely blessed to have her in my life. No, the main problems lay with me. She has been a thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, and wise friend for our marriage.

My hope is that you, the passive man or woman, will be given hope and encouragement. God loves you as you are and he made you to be a gentler soul. He also calls you to be more than just your natural self. He is refining you into something much more than you are today. Jesus didn’t come to make you mediocre. He came to make you a precious and fully redeemed bride for himself. He really loves you. He will continue to work with you and love you.

You may be passive, but he is actively pursuing you. We are so blessed to have him.

-Chip

The image above is courtesy of Keoni Cabral and is used with permission

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Five Ways My Mom is Ordinary

Mothers DayMy mom is really ordinary.

No, seriously. She is!

A middle class lady who grew up in Wisconsin, she eventually married an introvert from Georgia (my dad) and had five kids. We grew up in East Tennessee (one of the lovelier places in the country) living our ordinary lives. Now that I have children of my own, I can clearly assert that my mom is extraordinarily ordinary. Let me give five examples.

5. She Did Not Murder Me in My Sleep

Most mothers don’t murder their children so my mom is very normal to have not murdered me as a teenager. Despite my efforts to be a bull-headed and argumentative child, I never once feared for my life. You may say that failing to kill your eldest son is easy, but I beg to differ. She had many an opportunity to take a look at the arrogant boy in front of her and wonder what terrible mistake she had made in bringing me into the world.

Instead, she loved me. She discussed and talked and pushed and cared through many difficult years. She tolerated my lack of respect and laziness and foolishness patiently. She loved me well.

4. She Sacrificed Working to Stay at Home with Us

Mom chose the life of an ordinary house-wife. Life would have been easier for her had she worked and sent us off to school. The pressure through the 80s and 90s was constantly valuing the working woman and demeaning the homemaker. But mom stood firm in her ordinary-ness. She stayed home with us and ignored the fad of the day that said women must work.

3. She Pursued an Education for Us

My mom homeschooled us. We were one of the earlier families in our area to be homeschooled but certainly not the first. She had that very ordinary notion that her children should be educated and she worked to make that happen. She dealt with the ordinary pressures felt by the homeschooling community of the day such as the heavily over-blown notion that we would be unsocialized. By the time I graduated High School there was a thriving homeschool community in East Tennessee.

I have a particularly fond memory of going to Roane State Community College with my mom to start my first classes. I had no idea how this college thing worked and mom went with me and talked to the staff and basically held my hand through it. I wonder if she hadn’t been there that day how differently my life would be today. But, you know, this is ordinary mom stuff.

2. She Worked Hard for a Strong Marriage with My Dad

Mom and Dad have been married for almost 35 years now. They haven’t had the perfect marriage, but a sweet one. They are very dedicated and sweet with each other. Their marriage isn’t flashy. You won’t see Dad get up on a stage and sing some Sinatra to my mom. It is just a steady, kind relationship. Very ordinary.

Of course, half of marriages don’t make it at all in the first five years, so you could argue that 35 years is an accomplishment. You could even remind me that even those couples that “make it,” some of them don’t like each other. Mom and Dad clearly like each other. But I’ve never known anything different from this so I will confidently assert that their marriage is also quite ordinary.

1. She Showed Us Jesus

We attended church throughout my childhood. This is not an easy thing to do with three young children as I am discovering when I bring my four young children to church. We regularly listened to the music of Steve Green, Michael Card, Keith Green, and Patch the Pirate. The music in our home dripped with mentions of Jesus, grace, forgiveness, and the cross. All of these things were not unusual for a homeschooling family growing up in East Tennessee.

There is a particular song that has stuck with me named Answer the Call by Steve Green. As I look back on this song, it is the journey of my adult life.

I answer the call, I take my stand
I choose to live my days on Earth a faithful man
And to that end, I give my all
And in the strength and grace of God, I answer the call
The call to dedicate our lives to nurture our children and love our wives
A call to guard our heart and eyes, to press toward the goal
To win the prize!

Far from living up to these words, I see my own strange and difficult journey. A journey I may never have started but for reminders like this song.

As I look back at a childhood of a million ordinary things my mom did for us, I still know they are ordinary. There will never be a news broadcast saying that a mother fed her children dinner every day for twenty years, but just because a thing is ordinary does not mean it is not a very hard thing, even a commendable sacrifice.

The fact is that a million ordinary things over many years adds up to an extraordinary sacrifice that will pay off for myself and my siblings The debt that the generations of will owe my mom will grow to become incalculable in the decades and centuries to come.

So today I don’t Thank God for the several extraordinary things my mom did because those things had more impact in the moment, but less in the long run. Far more powerful is the endless tide of ordinary things. The legacy of my mom’s life cannot be adequately described by simply hanging onto the flashiness of the extraordinary but in the real power or a lifetime of hard, steady, and ordinary things.

I love you mom. Thank you for the ordinary things.

-Chip

What I Love

10773508456_c850c59e2e_bGrowing up is not for wimps. At the ripe old age of thirty, I continue to grow up. I hope to reach adulthood soon.

One of the more illuminating journey’s I have been on has been to better understand what it means to love. When Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor like you love yourself,” what does he mean? Sure, I understand that I am supposed to love my neighbor, but what I don’t understand is what it is to love.

In my late teens, I came up with the best definition of love I could. Love is to delight in someone’s good. It is not just sentimental (delighting) nor is it just pragmatic (their good), it is to delight in their good.

Using that working definition, the verse offers a strange insight. I am to love others like I love me. Jesus assumes that I love me. Far from the modern notion of coming to “love yourself.” I must already love myself. In fact, that innate love of myself is why I am so motivated to fix my own unhappiness. I love me so much, I would do whatever it takes to care for me. Jesus’ argument is that I should love other people that way.

So if I make sure to eat dinner every night, am I as motivated to make sure my wife gets dinner too. Honestly, one of the great purposes of marriage in my life is to show me how desperately ingrown my focus is. Before I loved Sam, I never had anyone to compete with me in my own heart. I could be selfish and it never caused too much trouble for me. But in marriage, there are so many compromises where I am forced to ask if what I want is best for us. I am no longer alone.

What a messy place my heart has turned out to be? Every time I am given a chance to serve and I do it, I see how resistant I am to doing anything for someone else. My heart does not want to love her like I love myself.

Love is also connected to all other feelings. What is fear? It is what I feel when what I love is endangered. Hope is what I feel when I believe something good will happen to someone I love. Dread is what I feel when I believe something bad will happen to someone I love. Peace is what I feel when what I love is secure. Anxiety is what I feel when it is not.

All of my feelings flow from what I love. So when I get angry when someone belittles me, I should pause. Anger is what I feel when something I love is harmed. What is it that I love? Maybe it is my reputation. Far from loving people, even my enemies, I am more like a petulant child who gets his feeling hurt.

The cure for all of these weaknesses is to love God, to be profoundly delighted by him. We should possess a childlike delight in him. Recently I was pondering what it meant in Hebrews to go “boldly before the throne of grace” in prayer. I used to think of it as a sense of entitlement that a believer should feel. Now I think of it like I am God’s little boy who walks into Heaven’s throne room and walks up to God, climbs in his lap, and asks for a bike.

All of this is very irregular for a stodgy religious person, but the reason I can go to him is because he loves me with such a sweet and tender love that I don’t need to posture somehow to get him to give me something. Far from it, I know he loves me so I will ask for what I really want.

You know what I want, I want to spend a billion billion years talking about everything I can imagine. He’s my daddy, so I know he’ll find the time for me.

And that is love.

-Chip

The delightful photo is courtesy of Vinoth Chandar and is used with permission.

It’s a Virtue, We Just Don’t Like It

5546445177_3251db342c_b We like virtues. We really do. Well, maybe we like them in theory, but not always in practice. Who could rail against love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness? These attributes are nearly universally valued by people.

But when I say valued, I mean I value it when other people do these things. I am not always so interested in doing them myself. I do get rather outraged when people do not treat me the way I want to be treated.

There are virtues in the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) that are not so widely lauded. Most people have a grudging acceptance of patience but more often have a punchline that implies that it is impossible. Faithfulness reminds us too much of how much divorce we engage in. That is really uncomfortable, better not mention it. Gentleness really sounds like weakness. We’ve all known gentle people: they cry a lot when they are bullied at school.

And no one will ever stitch self-control on a pillow. Self-control implies that I can be held responsible for the porn I look at or the video games I am playing or the laziness I so deeply want to indulge. It implies I can do things I don’t want to do. That is downright unAmerican.

But the virtue with the worst reputation is not one of the Fruits of the Spirit. It is maligned when it is discussed, misrepresented when it is described, and we complain viciously when other people don’t possess it.

That’s right, it is humility.

Humility is terribly misunderstood in our day. I think most people would describe it as the lack of pride. No one would tolerate love being described as the lack of hate or joy being the lack of sadness, but poor humility is always described by its opposite. We just know we don’t like arrogant people.

But then we run into semantic troubles. We talk about pride in our work and pride in our country. We take pride in our family and pride in our possessions. We talk about jobs as if they can allow a man some pride. With all of these uses of the word pride, it is difficult to define humility as the opposite of them. When we say pride, we mean many different things.

So humility really needs to be described on it own terms.

Often, when we think of a humble person, we think of a things like the old English term of being in a humble estate. That means poor. This is misleading. I have known many arrogant poor people and arrogant wealth people. Humility and pride are states of the heart, not dollar amounts in a bank.

So what is humility? One of the most helpful descriptions of a humble person came from C. S. Lewis.

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Humility is the self-forgetfulness we experience when we look at the stars on a clear night. Some describe it as the conviction that we are small, but I think it is more like the conviction that God is more interesting and delightful than I am. It’s not that I’m boring, it’s that he is fascinating.

Humility treats others well because it has compassion for their pain (treating it like I treat my own) and delights in their good (again, treating it like it was my good). Humility does not feel entitled to being served and, quite the opposite, delights in serving. Humility loves to see joy in others eyes and loves to serve them to see that joy.

Humility is not overly concerned with its reputation. This is one of the great lies of our society, that a humble person feels badly about themselves. A humble person is not thinking of themselves much at all. They have a delightful focus on the world around them which is not distracted by the constant posturing for appearances.

Humble people loves kids. They love the sincerity and delight that children possess. Far from being too wise and polished for children, humble people don’t mind getting on the ground and being silly with them. Because of that self-forgetfulness they experience, humble people don’t have to keep up appearances and neither do children.

Humble people love Jesus. They see him and are awestruck. They delight in the fact that he humbled himself more than anyone else ever could.

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Phil 2:6-7

Do you see it? Do you see how amazing it is that he was not stuck on being thought of (counted) equal with God. He chose to serve us. Why would he do this?

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

He did it for joy. He humbled himself for the joy he would experience later. He humbled himself because humility and joy are very nearly the same thing.

If you’re like me, you are no doubt feeling quite guilty right now. You are looking into your soul and seeing the stunning amount of naval-gazing you do and then realize the you are currently naval-gazing. Crap! What can we do?

I recently heard a wonderful lecture by James McDonald (see a wonderful excerpt here) where he made a fascinating insight into humility. He noted that the bible does not command you even once to be humble. Rather, it always tells us to “humble yourselves.” His argument is that humility is much more action oriented. It is the choice to clean up that mess you don’t have to, to serve someone for the joy of serving. Far from the ivory tower solution of considering my own humility, he says to over and over again that “humility is not a feel thing, it is a do thing.”

You want to be humble. Go change a kids diaper. Do you want to broadcast your stunning deed on Facebook? That is your pride trying to rob you of the much deeper joys of humility. God knows you did it. He encourages you to show off to him that you did it (Matthew 6:4-6). By implication, he wants you to love that your Dad is proud of you and delighted by your good deed. He wants you to be so pleased that he is pleased, so delighted in his delight.

He wants your joy. He wants your humility. What I never knew before is that these are nearly the same thing.

Humility is not only the foundation under joy, it is the foundation under love. You will notice that love has the strange components of loving actions and loving feelings. If you only describe love as an action or a feeling, it becomes either useless (just a feeling) or martyrdom (just an action). It must be both.

And that is where humility comes in. We must harness the joy of a delightful world full of image-bearers of God to pry the claws of stupid pride out of our souls. We are then free to joyfully look outside of ourselves and drink deeply of a joyful and sweet God and his lovely creation. The joy of humility is the fuel we use to love and sacrifice and serve. Under all that good is a humble heart that just doesn’t find itself all that interesting.

So do the humble thing. Go to God with your stupid pride and naval-gazing. Tell him about it. Then accept that he really does love you and really does forgive you because he really is that good. It takes humility to trust him, but isn’t that what this is all about.

Once you accept that he is trustworthy, then real joy is yours. Drink deeply of all the joys outside yourself. Drink from the deepest wells of joy which are scripture and prayer. Love the lesser joys too like nature, great books, people, great stories (movies too!). Stare deeply into things you love and forget yourself in them. Then make that joy complete by thanking God for them and then telling people about them.

Don’t buy into the lie that humility is miserable. Humility is joy, real joy.

-Chip

Photo is is from Waiting for the Word and is used with permission

The Sixth Love Language (for kids)

child laughingIn the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he makes the compelling argument for five major ways that we give and receive love. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Gifts
  4. Physical Touch
  5. Quality Time

This list is, of course, not exhaustive for the ways that people can give and receive love. I should probably keep working at my job despite the fact “Working at a Job” is not a listed love language. It is loving for my family even if it does not fit comfortably on the list.

As I have had children, I have been amazed at how much they just drink in physical touch and words of affirmation. They are just sponges for love in those ways. I can watch my daughter just brim with excitement when I tell her that I think that dress looks beautiful on her. She will then dance and twirl around the living room to make sure I have noticed every last pink frill.

But there is a strange way that kids accept love that I had not anticipated. Far from the more glamorized and acceptable ways of giving love listed above, this one is different. It is the sixth love language (for kids).

6.  Acts of Silliness

Kids just flourish when parents are ridiculous and silly around them. I think God is like this. We will be amazed in Heaven by how much God is speaking in baby-talk just to speak with us at all. I think we will also be amazed at how very funny God will be. He is not simply the judge of the Universe, he also knows all the best jokes.

One such joke that is common in my house is that a child will walk into a room and I will intensely point and smile at them. I won’t say anything, just point. The child stops, considers for a moment, then they smile. “You’re so silly dada.”

My pointer fingers on both hands are called my “Poking Fingers.” The kids know that if I walk up to them with my poking fingers out, they are about to get gentle pokes in their bellies. They twist up and giggle and have a good time even if I don’t poke them. A favorite thing they do is try to prevent my poking finger from poking them. When they succeed in stopping a poke, they are quite proud of themselves and give me five year old smack talk.

The point is that we men should not be too serious in our home. Our kids need us to be representative of the Sovereign God who commands infinite respect AND the God who is funny and delightful. Yahweh is both.

Gentlemen, we need to love our kids using Acts of Silliness. Tickle them, tell them a nonsensical joke, make funny sounds, pretend you are a giant pink panda bear. Be very, very silly because you love them so much that you don’t care if your neighbor’s laugh at you as long as your kids know you love them.

Ironically, Acts of Silliness make you most respectable.

-Chip

The delightful image above was use with permission from Cheriejoyful.

Make Her Glad You’re Home

3473338897_889e375ae0_oI sit in the car after a hard day’s work. The engine turns off and the interior light blinks on. Looking into the passenger seat, I pull up the mental energy to head into the house.

I’ve read the books. I know what to expect. My wife is just now pulling a delicious home-cooked meal from the oven. The children are playing thoughtfully and respectfully in the living room. My wife comes over to me and, with glowing affection, gives me a kiss and asks about my day. She looks radiant having just taken some time to freshen up.

Then cold, hard reality sets in. My real wife in my real house caring for my real children. She has made the hard decision to stay at home and home-school our kids. She doesn’t work outside the home even though she excels in the working world. She uses her tremendous gifts to care for and raise our children well. I am very grateful.

But with that gratitude, I better mix in some understanding. She has been working since the kids got up at 7 AM. No real breaks and always on call. With my four kids, she is essentially running a day-care (except she doesn’t get off at 5 PM). In addition, she has managerial functions of acquiring and delivering food for this hoard of little mouths. She is handling deliveries of mail and supplies and paying the bills. She then also coordinates the frequent home maintenance and repairmen who come and go.

And she often packs my lunch in the morning.

Far from the books that have so many recommendations for her about how she should take care of me when I go through the door, maybe I should consider how I should care for her.

Many men, including this man, feel like once we’ve worked hard all day, we are entitled to a little rest and relaxation at the end of the day. For that matter, I’m entitled to some good sex as well. I’ve worked hard. I deserve it.

But this attitude is not biblical at all. The oft-quote sections of scripture speaking to men never explain what I can expect from her. Far from it, every time the Bible talks to me, it reminds me of what I should be doing for her.

It’s called servanthood.

Loving my wife as I love myself means that as I sit in the quiet of my still car, I need to be aware that she is tired too. She has been working harder than I have in a poorly defined job without the accolades of employment. The hard-working employee gets a pat on the back from his boss. The hard-working homemaker gets the occasional dirty look at the grocery store and the periodic blog post reminding her that she is a second-class woman.

Her job is harder than mine.

Despite the books reminding me that my wife should greet me at the door with a smile, a warm hug, an understanding ear, and a hot meal, I am the chief servant. The question I should ask is what can I do for her. Far from demanding that she act glad to see me, maybe I should care so well for her that she will be glad to see me. I don’t need to see how much I can take from my family, but how much I can give.

As the daddy of four little people, it is completely unrealistic that my wife will be refreshed and thrilled to see me at dinner time. She will be at her most harried. But, rather than think of how terrible it is that God made things this way, what if this is an opportunity? You see, I can be the hero. What if I told her she could take a break and I cooked dinner? What if this is a chance to haul the kids all into a bath? What if I could help her and not drain her?

So, when I step out of that car, I will walk through that door not asking what she can do for me. No, I will walk into that house and help where I can. If I do this right, maybe she will actually be really glad to see me.

And sex, hopefully nice sex afterwards.

-Chip

Photo by Tiffany Terry and used with permission

Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Fail

dreamstimefree_163036Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

She has this all planned out. She has been planning her Valentine’s days since she was a little girl. The day begins with a full breakfast cooked to perfection. You leave for work with a look of gentle sadness in your eyes, knowing that you are leaving the gems of your life behind. She is pleasantly surprised to find a little love note in her purse from you. Yes, you did it again, a poem hand written by you that is perfectly in tune with her every heartbeat. She sighs gently to herself that she is the luckiest girl in the world.

You send her thoughtful texts from work reminding her that you know she is the most beautiful thing that God ever created. You instruct her to dress in something formal because there is a surprise date this evening to somewhere special. Right as she is finding the right dress, the doorbell rings. She answers it to find a delivery of the largest bouquet of roses she has ever seen. You sent a dozen for every year you’ve been married.

You arrive home looking fresh and relaxed after another day of killing it professionally. She is wholly secure in her financial future because of your great work ethic and careful planning just in case the worst happens. She looks radiant in her dress. You take one of the roses from the bouquet and with a deft hand you make a beautiful corsage on the spot that goes perfectly with her dress. You walk to the car holding hands as you drive to her favorite restaurant.

She is so surprised when the waiter beings you to a private table. You order for yourself and then show how carefully you have been studying her all these years by ordering what she would like as well. You check with her to be sure, but you were exactly right. As you sip champagne together you reminisce over all the great times you have had over the years. You tell her that when God made the world, he made her just right to be the perfect match for you.

You drive home holding hands in the car. When you arrive, you hurry over and open her door. When you go inside, you dim the lights and turn on her favorite romantic music. As you take her in your arms, she breaths a gentle prayer thanking God for such a wonderful husband. As the evening progresses, well, let’s just say it went well from there.

Not intimidating at all, right?

The real you wakes up on February 14th, nearly forgets to shave, hurries to work. Yells at the dog on the way out. Has a very stressful day at work. Rushes home and decides to fix that leaky faucet in the basement. After a long and exhausting day your head hits the pillow and you look into your dear wife’s eyes. Those hurt, angry eyes.

Crap, you forgot again. At least you weren’t away fishing this year.

None of us guys can live up to the Hallmark commercial. She won’t smile as big in real life as the girl in the Kay Jewelers commercial did. The fact is that only one word describes Valentines Day.

Intimidation!

We aren’t up to this. If she just liked sports more this would be easy. But no, she has dreams of romance and kindness. Less beer and more wine. What is a guy to do?

You have a couple of options. The worst one is to ignore the day. Sure it’s scary, but I promise she knows it’s coming. If you forget/ignore the day, she won’t. Minimal effort really is worth more than no effort at all.

Nearly as bad is a passing mention. “Happy Valentine’s Day honey” with a kiss on the cheek. She has dreams of being romanced and a simple well-wish will not cut it. You need to do more.

Some men fall into the trap of thinking this is about money. If you spend sufficient funds on flowers, chocolate, and a cute night gown (let’s face it, the night gown is a gift for you). To be sure, money helps. Particularly if you are a tight-wad or gifts are her thing. But let’s not pretend that money is honoring and showing her that you prize her. Money spent is only as good as it shows her that she is precious to you.

So let me show you the most excellent way. Demonstrate she is precious to you the other 364 days of the year.

I was recently discussing with my wife an idea I read in the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Every day, he writes a note on the 3×5 card to his wife affirming her in some way. She loves these notes so much that she has shoe boxes full of them from many years of notes. Even when he travels, he leaves prewritten notes for her.

My wifes’ response was priceless. “I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t love that.”

Hint taken.

As of last week, I have written a 3×5 card every day I work. My friends, this works. It is good for her to read these notes but it is also very good for me to write them. It is good to be reminded about the things I love about her. It is not that we don’t fight, but it created a very affirming atmosphere for us to fight in. It has been so good that I will be writing one to each of my children once a week.

Gentlemen, the best way to love your wives is not to show her you care one day a year with a glorious and romantic evening. She would much rather you did a few little things the other 364 days. If we have done well, Valentines day will be the culmination of a previous year’s work. It doesn’t help me much if God loves me on Sunday but has no help for Monday. Your wife needs you to love her well the rest of the year so that you can give her a single rose on Valentine’s Day, but she knows that rose is from a man who deeply loves and affirms her.

Will this solve all your problem, not by a long shot. Loving is hard. But if all loving has this kind of payoff, then loving her well is wonderful indeed.

Now go tell that woman specifically what you love about her.

-Chip