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I don’t know if you’ve ever surveyed the greeting card section for husbands and dads, but let me tell you something–the pickins are pretty slim.
I re-encountered this Hallmarkian wasteland a few weeks ago when I picked out a birthday card for Ike. As I stood in the card aisle at Target, I waded through a mire of fart jokes, beer jokes, and thinly veiled (or not so thinly veiled) insults about men. It’s kind of a weird thing, because it doesn’t seem like a great way to celebrate the men in our lives, but clearly people buy these cards since card companies keep making them.
What bugs me about these cards is how degrading they are to men. Sure, some men out there do fit those stereotypes. Some men are slobs, some men are couch potatoes, and some men are lazy.
But not all men are like that, and I am not married to one of those men. Ike is quite the opposite, in fact. He is a high achieving man. He is a doctoral candidate and a pastor. He manages our finances and takes cares of projects around the house. He’s an awesome dad and an attentive husband. He has an incredible work ethic, and is very conscientious. Yes, he even grooms himself unprompted.
Being married to a man like that is awesome, which is why those greeting cards are so gross to me. They don’t reflect my reality at all.
However, being married to a man like Ike can also be hard. Especially in seasons like this one, when I am too pregnant to keep up with him. Many days I feel like dead weight in our home. Ike has to handle the lion’s share of the responsibilities because I’m simply too tired or too sick to help.
On top of my physical limitations, I don’t look like my usual self. I’m a solid 35 pounds heavier than normal, which injects me with an added dose of insecurity. It’s hard to be married to a man who works out regularly when you feel like a beached whale. It’s hard not to feel unattractive, or unequal.
That’s the flip side of being married to a high achieving man. When I think of men like Ike, I imagine them being married to a certain type of woman. I picture the Ruth Graham types, the long-suffering wives who love their husbands and raise their children with nary a complaint, all to support their husbands’ demanding calls. They don’t mind when their husbands are away for work. They’re happy to shoulder the sacrifices. They can keep up without missing a beat, like stalwart Christian soldiers.
That’s the kind of wife that a “great man” needs. That’s the kind of wife my husband needs.
But I am not that wife.
Instead, there are many days when I complain and have a poor attitude. Many days I am not as supportive as I should be. Many days I try to encourage him, only to make things worse.
And on those days, I feel like a failure. I wish I was the soldier type. I wish I could do it all with a wink and a grin because I have Jesus so I can do all things. But I’m not, and I can’t. So that image of the saintly wife looms over me as a witness to my own inadequacy. I simply can’t measure up to her.
Some days, I even wonder if Ike should have married a better woman.
But lately God has been teaching me something, and I hope this makes sense.
In 2 Corinthians 2:19, Paul tells us that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” In my own life, this verse is a great comfort when I fall short. God doesn’t need my sufficiency, because He is sufficient on His own.
However I think this verse has an additional meaning. Sometimes, this verse isn’t for me at all, but for the people who love me. Sometimes, I am the weakness in their lives. As hard as it is, and as much as I dislike it, I am the means of sanctification in another person. God uses my failures and shortcomings to make my husband, my parents, and my friends, more like Him.
Sometimes, God’s power is made perfect in my husband through my weakness.
This makes a lot of sense when I think about it in the reverse. When my husband disappoints me or my son tests my patience, the Holy Spirit is at work. Their brokenness can be a source of growth in my life, if I let it.
But it’s hard to be on the other end. Who wants to be the reason for another person’s character development? I would die a thousand deaths if a friend admitted, “Yeah, God really used your self-righteousness to help me see my own sin.” I mean, praise God and all that, but wouldn’t you rather it had been someone else? Some other jerk?
The thing is, we’re all broken and we’re all sinners. I’m sure even Ruth Graham had her days. I’m sure she yelled at Billy. I’m sure she was frustrated with him, and took out her frustration in ways she would later regret. And when she did, I’m sure God used those moments to make him the man that he was.
As wives, we want our virtues to be the primary influence on our husbands. We want to build them up and love them well, and that’s a good goal. But as sinners, we also have to accept the reality that we are not perfect, and our imperfections are equally a means of grace. On the days when we can’t keep up, and when we’re not the women we want to be, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the only way Jesus remains our husbands’ Savior instead of us. I don’t have to be perfect, because Jesus is, and that’s a responsibility I’ll gladly hand over.