“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13
I never wanted a dog, but one day my husband showed up with a present for me. He held the tiniest little puppy I had ever seen. A 6-week old Chihuahua that fit in my hand. We debated names. Chris wanted our little guy to have an intimidating name like Killer; I wanted a floral name like Sweet Pea since our cats are named Daisy and Lily. We agreed on the tough name of Duke, honoring my childhood hero John Wayne.
Anyway, my husband didn’t want Duke to sleep with us, but it tore my heart out the way he whined the very first night he slept alone. I did not last an hour. I slept on the couch with him curled up on my pillow. Chris’s determination not to have Duke in our bed lasted about 5 weeks. I slept every night with Duke. Finally he recanted, and Duke and I moved back into the bedroom. The first two years of Duke’s life, I worked from home providing him constant care and affection. Even now when I work full time outside the house, he still adores me. I am the sun of his world, and his little puppy dog life revolves around me. Plain and simply, he loves me unconditionally. Through Duke’s actions toward me, I have learned a number of ways that I can be a more godly wife.
1) Greetings: Each day when I come home from work, Duke is waiting at the door. He jumps up on the couch where he is more my level. If I take too long to put up my keys, purse, etc. he barks excitedly. His whole body shakes in anticipation as he cannot wait to spend time with me. He’s never angry. Never greets me with problems. Instead he greets warmly and affectionately, genuinely pleased to see me.
Now to us, when was the last time that you greeted your husband at the door with a smile and a kiss? What about a dab of lip gloss and a dash of perfume? Do we show him that he is the most important human in our world and that we are just happy to see him? Or do we ignore his arrival? If we do make the effort to meet him at the door, is it so we can greet him or so we can let him know that one of the kids is sick, the bathroom sink is leaking again, or someone stole our debit card number and it had to be cancelled? Certainly, you husband, your partner in life, needs to know the issues that have arisen, but give him a chance to de-stress from work first.
I’ll be honest; I am always in the middle of cooking dinner when Chris gets home. Instead of rushing to greet him as I did in the early days of marriage, too often I think, he’ll find me. What message does that send to him? How would he respond if I was a little more Duke and a little less Heidi when he returns home after work?
2) Snuggles: Duke rarely sits still. He wants to play; He wants to run and chase. His favorite game is tag by the way, and he totally gets that he chases you and you chase him. He loves squeaker toys and likes you to fight over them with him. He’ll growl and act like he is so upset, but since we play the game often, I know how to cheat. All I have to do is lean over and kiss the top of his head. Instantly the growling stops and he drops the toy. Instead he wants to snuggle, to have me pet his head and speak gently to him. He soaks up my affection. I’m kind of a brat so I love on him just enough to steal the toy and go back to the game. He falls for it EVERY SINGLE TIME because one minute of mommy’s time is worth more than any game. No matter what he is doing, where he is at, who he is playing with, if Chris says “Want to give Mommy some loveys?”, he is done. He is never too busy to love me and always anticipates the time when he can.
Now back to our men. Chris and I love to banter with each other. We like to tease and torment but do we stop long enough to offer love and affection? Do we simply tease each other and then turn our backs on other areas of our relationship because they are too difficult or might take longer than 20 seconds which is time we do not have? Life brings many hardships and many issues, but it brings many blessings and good times as well. Do we get so caught up in the game of life that we forget to give each other some uninterrupted, quality snuggle time?
I will give an example from my marriage. Chris often asks me to sit down and watch a movie with him. Most of the time I’m too busy. If I stop, the laundry will not get done, the checkbook won’t get balanced, dinner won’t get cooked, the floors won’t get swept, and my list goes on and on. But when I am too busy to spend time with my husband, what story does that tell? I have learned that being too busy for Chris (even if I am busy serving him through housework) sends a dual message to Chris. First, he is not worthy of my time and second I am too busy with what I want to do to fit him in. Not my intention. So nowadays, I say “You get it set up, and I’ll be right there.” While he is setting it up, I gather tasks I can do in front of the TV – laundry, the checkbook, etc. As we watch the movie, I work on whatever. Towards the end of the movie, I make sure I put everything down and snuggle up. Chris knows he is number one and doesn’t feel neglected.
3) Sees You: After dinner, Chris will usually spend a few minutes on his iPad or watching TV. I wash the dishes. It usually only takes ten minutes or so. Whether he is in the family room or the bedroom, I walk in there (with Duke at my heels) and tell him to stay so I can clean the kitchen without tripping over him. The first five minutes I’m out of sight, he whines for me. Then he settles in with a bone and waits. I’m never gone longer than fifteen minutes. When I walk in to the room, he drops the bone, stands to greet me and the tail starts wagging. One of Duke’s most commendable attributes is his tunnel vision. It doesn’t matter if my hair is uncombed and I’m still in my bathrobe, all he sees is me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only been away two minutes, he’s still excited. When I walk into the room, he lights up. He doesn’t see the imperfections or faults that I have. He just sees me.
Now to us, when your honey walks in to the room, do you notice that his jeans are filthy, and you are going to need to wash yet another load of laundry? Do you worry that if he sits down on the bed or couch in those jeans that he is going to get something dirty? Do you notice that he forgot to shave this morning and his neck could use a little TLC? Do we point out the problems or do we offer a warm greeting? Maybe the physical things are not what you notice but instead you think about his faults and ask how that worked for him today. Or you think back to last night’s fight and relive the most painful parts. When we criticize our husband’s flaws, we tell them in so many less words that their imperfections are more important to us than who they are as a person. Completely opposite of Duke’s message.
By now, you know two of my faults. I cannot stop EVER, so the first thing I see is the grime. Secondly, I am not always the best at keeping my mouth shut. Both of these things have caused a fight or two in my marriage. But I’m trying. If I absolutely cannot stand the factory dirt Chris often brings home with him, I try a different approach. Instead of attacking Chris for his clothes, I might suggest that he come in, slip into comfy clothes, and put his feet up while I make him a glass of ice tea. At least in this way, he doesn’t feel judged the moment I see him but instead feels served. He knows that I love him and have his best interests in view.
4) Forgives: When Duke misbehaves, I employ a variety of punishments. He gets sprayed with a water bottle, gets put in a crate, or gets completely ignored–depending on his crime. He doesn’t like any of these punishments, but the great thing about him is that he forgives instantly and easily. I can punish him, and he can sit sulking in the corner. But the second I click my tongue for him, he comes running with tail wagging and tongue licking. He is ready to show me I am forgiven, and he loves me despite what I did to him.
What about your attitude with your husband? Can he trust that after a fight you will forgive him? Does he know that you will never mention the hurtful actions again? Or are you the kind of wife who feels the need to dredge up the past and remind the man you married of the many times he has failed you? If you are an excavation expert, how is that working for you? I’m guessing not very well. Proverbs 27:15 warns that “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.”
I have found that when I nag or complain, my husband’s coping mechanism is to turn me off. He doesn’t like who I am being at that moment so he shuts down. All the screaming, yelling, brow beating in the world won’t do me any good if he’s not listening. If a situation arises where we actually have a real problem and not one that is compounded by the inner voices of my head, it is better to sit down and patiently discuss the problem without pointing the finger or nagging that he has done this type of thing hundreds of times over the years. I need to remember Duke in these conversations and when he apologizes (or in some cases simply changes his attitude), I need to let go and forgive instantly and completely. It’s done and it’s not barging into my marriage again.
5) Protects: Duke is a little guy. He weighs under twelve pounds, but when it comes to me, he knows no boundaries. A couple years ago we went to Tennessee to visit relatives. As they have a lovely place out in the country, we decided to take Duke. I was sitting on the porch in a rocking chair with Duke sleeping on my lap when Aunt Libby’s gentle, old golden retriever loped up the steps. Instantly Duke was awake. As long as Pumpkin was on the far side of the porch, he was okay but the second he crossed over to our side of the porch, Duke was up growling. That big dog wasn’t going to hurt his Mommy! Duke’s actions were so intimidating that poor Pumpkin left her own porch with her tail between her legs.
Do you have your husband’s back? When you are at a family function and someone demeans your guy do you laugh and add your own complaint or do you stand up for him? When you are out with your girlfriends and they get started on husband bashing, do you join the conversation with a list of his faults? What message are your conversations about your husband sending to others and to him? Do they say that you respect and honor the spiritual leader of your home or do they say that you have a few hundred miles to go before you resemble anything remotely Christ-like?
Now, I’m not suggesting that you cannot joke and tease with your husband, family and friends. But I am saying that when your comments are made in spite, cause feelings of failure or hit just a little too close to home that you should not be making them. Those things are not funny and should be left unsaid. I’m also talking about what goes on behind your spouse’s back. My husband is far from perfect but I want others to see the good in him. I don’t want them to pick his flaws apart. If I am complaining about his issues, I give them the fuel to judge him or think negatively about him. Instead I want to build him up with other people. If they have never met him, I want them to form positive opinions of him so that when they do meet him, they look forward to it instead of thinking this is the jerk who does a, b, c. Your husband should rest in the knowledge that you are his helpmate and that you will protect him in and outside of your home.
We’ve got our work cut out for us. Being a godly wife may not always be easy, but as Christian women it is our calling. Embrace your calling, and learn that simple steps, courteous actions, and constant care build a stronger, more enjoyable marriage. Remember the lessons little Duke teaches and offer the same kind of loyalty and unconditional love to the man you married!
What lessons have you learned from your little furry friend(s) that has helped you become a better, more godly wife?