I should mark this post with the hashtag #thingsmydadtaughtme. My father is a great husband, father and friend. In addition to being my father, he has been my pastor for 29 years. His instruction has been consistent from the pulpit and in the home.
But things were not always grand between us. My father and I were often at odds. During my teen years, I thought my struggle was for his respect and to be treated with more dignity. Actually, the hard truth was I was independent, proud and resistant to his authority at every turn. But then a most profound change took place in the months surrounding my wedding. I had many questions and he had many humble, life-tested answers. Even now, when my marriage ventures into unsure terrain, Dad provides knowing guidance. His biblical advice has consistently been a pole star for me.
His advice has been so influential that I wanted to share some of it. By sharing, I do not meant to imply I have mastered these principles but rather when I apply them, my marriage benefits greatly. So here are five #thingsmydadtaughtme.
1. Be a Server, Not a Sitter.
My father never felt entitled to time off at home. Or at least I never saw him express it. After putting in long days that were exhausting both physically and emotionally, he would walk in the door ready to do the most menial of tasks. He would vacuum, cook, fold clothes, do the dishes and whatever else needed to be done. He was always willing to care for us kids, settle disputes that may have occurred in his absence or discipline us (probably me) for disrespectful words or disobedient behavior. Never a complaint was heard. Still haven’t and I have 34 years worth of observation of him.
Ephesians 5:25 tells us men that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. But our attitudes are often selfish, lazy, entitled, self-serving or harsh. We rationalize and point out silly principles that authorize us to sit on our behinds and expect ice tea and silence. What lies we are preaching of Christ’s love for the church. The next phrase in Ephesians 5:25 is “and gave himself up for her.” In regards to Sacrifice, nothing is off limits. Nothing is too much. Never did Jesus get a break. And last time I checked, none of us husbands are out forgiving sin, raising the dead and atoning for sin during our workday.
I need to know how to empty the dishwasher even when work is stressful. (Shame on you if you if you only take silverware out of the drawer.) I have to do laundry after I put in extra hours at the job. I must be ready to give my bride a break from the kids even though I may not have had a break all day. If I am like Christ, I give myself up. I do not have expectations. I do not have rights. I do not have an attitude. Give it up.
Most homes have a divisions of duties where one spouse does some work and the other spouse performs their list of tasks. That is certainly not sin. It is efficient in fact. But dad taught me that loving like Christ means stepping over the line of efficiency into the world of sacrifice. Sure its her job to do laundry, and sure I’m tired but towels wont fold themselves, and by doing it, I can exemplify Christ and teach Christ and love Christ and glorify Christ. I can also bring a smile to her face and that is worth more than a few minutes with my feet up.
2. Be a Sponge, Not a Hammer.
A hammers strikes. It makes harsh contact. It affects other things while remaining unaffected.
A sponge absorbs. It soaks up whatever is around it.
Hammers are very unspongelike. Can you imagine trying to sink a 4 inch nail into a 2 x 4 with a sink sponge? Can you imagine trying to clean up spilled milk with a hammer? Both are silly nonsense. But there is a lesson for husbands here. One that dad taught often.
In the movie Phenomenon, a wise old man is reassuring a doubtful woman that John Travolta loves her. He points to Travolta’s house and said “He bought your chairs.” The lady looks and realizes that his house and front porch has been stacked to the brim with the rocking chairs she made and had been selling on consignment in town. She had no idea that he had been purchasing them all.
When it comes to knowing our wives, we need to be sponges, not hammers. We need to buy their chairs. Or as 1 Peter 3:7 puts it, “Dwell with your wives according to knowledge.” Dad was a good listener. He knew what mom wanted. He knew when she needed a break. He knew what she wanted for her anniversary…most of the time. He could tell when she was unhappy or unsure. He was an example of a man whose tuner was always on his wife’s channel.
Learning this skill is difficult because I am not a good listener. I tend to move fast through conversations and pick up the high points, or what I deem the high points, and then move on. I have male friends who tell me that I never listen. Its a problem.
But when it comes to my wife, I need to slow down. Make notes. Not mental notes. Actual pencil on paper notes. One benefit of a smart phone is that if she says she wishes she had a nice pair of slippers because her feet hurt, I can buy her some that moment on Amazon and have them in her hand in a couple of days. When I give them to her, she knows I was listening and that brings a smile to her face.
I need to learn what her frustrations are. I need to investigate what parts of her day are overwhelming. I need to know what type of vacation would make her thrilled. I need to know what flavor candy is her favorite. I need to be able to order her drink when she goes to the restroom before the waiter takes our order. I need to know body language, face language, clothes language, leaving the room language and a thousand other languages.
I have got to know what she expects for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines …
…and Easter. On Easter during my childhood, I put on a white shirt and if there was a bright colored tie, I wore it to church. Boom. Done with Easter. At Candice’s house, everybody got a new outfit. Everybody. Every year. They also gave gifts. To everybody. Every year. I know that now. I also know that when Candice says “Let’s not do anything this year for our anniversary so we can save money” — she means it. She would be happy with a hand-written card. I do not know it all, or maybe even much, yet, but I am still learning. And that’s the point. Keep learning. Keep absorbing. Keep being a sponge. Dwell with knowledge.
3. Be a Teacher, not a Warden.
Christ sets the captives free. Husbands should set their wives free. Free to learn. Free to fellowship. Free to create. Free to serve.
Christ also corrects and teaches. Dad taught me that husbands should use their God-given role as head-of-the-home to teach. Husbands should teach the scripture. Husbands should teach the kids. Husbands should teach by example.
A teacher doesn’t imprison. I need to find ways to let Candice go. If you know my wife, then you know it would take more than chains to contain her. But my attitude and availability will send her subtle messages about her freedom. Am I begrudging of her time? Do I resentfully compare her freedoms to mine? Do I pout as she walks out the door or when she returns?
A couple of ways to “set them free” are to encourage Godly and challenging relationships outside the marriage. I need to encourage creative expressions of her hobbies and artistic style and skills. She is humbly unique for which I am grateful. I need to assist her in ventures she may attempt. Could a Proverbs 31 woman be profitable in trade and real estate if she had no freedom to make decisions or lacked a certain entrepreneurial independence? I must hold all things loosely.
However, the husband’s headship also includes teaching. As husband, I am the primary tool God uses to explain, instruct, challenge and explore biblical realities in the life of my wife and children.
Dad taught me at every turn as my pastor, coach, father…and principal when needed. Husbands must be teachers. Dad taught me that it is not the primary function of the church to disciple the wife and children. That is the non-delegable duty of the husband/father. It is not an option for husbands to delegate the training of the souls in their care to anyone. Anyone. Sure, other teachers, pastors, authors, and speakers will have a positive influence–hopefully. But the ultimate responsibility over these matters lies squarely on the shoulders of the husband.