Tag Archives: Husband

Ezer Kenegdo

Ezer Kenegdo (CaD Gen 2) Wayfarer

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

For whatever reason, God saw fit to surround me with women most of my entire life journey. My eldest brothers are twins, my sister came five years later, and I brought up rear. Most of my childhood the sibling dynamic in my family system was two pairs: the twins and Jody and me. When I was very young, I can remember times when dad and the twins would be off doing something and I was home with mom and Jody. It made an impression on me.

Further down life’s road, I find myself the father of two girls, and then was blessed to have Wendy’s sister live with us for a few years. I always seem to find myself in situations in which I’m surrounded by women. About four years ago I wrote a post with my first words to my grandson, discussing this very phenomenon.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I rather enjoy it most of the time. In fact, the experience has significantly changed my view and understanding of women along my life journey. For most of my early journey I loosely held a fairly fundamentalist view of the roles of men and women, husbands and wives. And, I confess that many of my views early on were downright misogynistic. My life experiences, my spiritual journey as a Jesus follower, and the amazing women in my life, have led to embracing what I consider to be a deeper understanding of women and all the incredible things they are in creation.

In today’s chapter, God looks at Adam and makes a “helper suitable for him.” The Hebrew words are ezer kenegdo. Ezer simply means “help” or “assistance.” Kenegdo is made up of three words. The study text I read this morning stated that it suggests: “someone God fashions for the man who would correspond to him.” This does not imply inferiority, weakness, or submission, but rather one who “uniquely his counterpart and uniquely suited for him.”

And that brings me to Wendy, the woman who is the definition of my ezer kengdo. We couldn’t be more different in so many ways, and the Enneagram Institute describes relationships between Fours (me) and Eights (Wendy) “the most inherently volatile” of combinations, though it adds the combination can be “one of the most creative relationship couplings.”

Wendy and I do everything together. We work together out of our home, we serve together, and we play together. There are certainly things each of us do and enjoy alone, but for the most part we are around each other 24/7/365 in our daily lives. And that’s a good thing for me. It’s a great thing for me.

I had a member of my company’s Board of Directors once ask me if I could imagine doing my job without Wendy. My response was immediate: “Absolutely not.” In fact, I can’t imagine doing it without her. I can’t imagine doing anything without her. She’s “uniquely suited” to make me better at everything I do in life, in community, and business as I like to believe I am uniquely suited to make her better in the same.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. We’re not perfect. We clash. We have flashes of volatility as the folks at the Enneagram Institute describe. Sometimes sparks fly. Yet that, I believe, is inherently a by-product of ezer kenegdo. Not alike, but uniquely suited.

So, in the quiet this morning, I think there are a whole host of things that I could have blogged about from today’s chapter. It is chock full of truth on multiple layers. Yet, on this chapter-a-day journey, I often find that the thing that is most meaningful to me is the thing that rises to the top of mind and soul. To me, this day, that is ezer kenegdo; that is Wendy, and all of the women with whom God has surrounded me my entire life journey to teach me about manhood, and to make me a better man.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Double Edged Sword of Marriage and Singleness

“I wish that all of you were [unmarried] as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
1 Corinthians 7:7 (NIV)

Paul was unmarried, and in his letters to the followers of Jesus in Corinth he expresses his appreciation for being “undivided” in his loyalties. He means, that as an unmarried person he could devote himself fully to the work of God without having to invest time, energy, and resources into a marriage relationship. I understand the common sense in his reasoning. Marriage certainly takes work and a large investment of time and energy.

Over my earthly journey I have observed that we as humans tend to err on the extremes of many earthly issues. I have come to believe that my culture often does a disservice in fostering a pervasive expectation of marriage for all young people. Marriage is a great thing when it is right, but many young people walk into marriage thinking it will solve problems when it can actually creates more problems (with greater complexity) than it solves.

The traditional marriage vows of the church state that “marriage should not be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but soberly, deliberately….” but I’ve observed that this is what happens more often than not. If the church wants people to heed that advice, then I think we need to do a much better job of communicating that singleness is a healthy, acceptable, and advisable life choice.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s clear that some find celibacy and singleness to be a better spiritual choice. While I appreciate much about the Roman Catholic traditions, I have always thought the blanket prescription of celibate priests a silly idea. Just as it is wrong to think that everyone would be better off getting married, it is equally wrong to think that everyone is better off spiritually by staying single. I understand that the Roman church wants their priests to follow Paul’s example and be fully dedicated to their work, but I’m not convinced that celibacy is universally better for serving God.

This past Sunday I delivered the morning message in two services among my local gathering of Jesus followers. While I could have done it without Wendy, I am much better off with her by my side. She takes care of my needs in the morning (all the time, really) so that I can be prepared. She is a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas and helps me refine my message. She is quick and adept at helping me get wired for sound. She is constantly by my side providing relational and emotional support. She runs and gets me water or coffee if I need it. She gives me flawless and on-target critiques between services to help me improve. She is my greatest cheerleader and my strongest prayer supporter. After the service she helps me debrief. Paul may have been better off serving God without a wife, but I am certain I would not serve God as well were it not for Wendy.

This morning I am thinking of my unmarried friends and family, some of whom struggle constantly with the cultural (or personal) perception that there is something wrong because they are not married. I’m thankful for them, and happy for the good things in this life that they enjoy with their freedom. I am also thinking about Wendy this morning. Like all marriages, ours has its constant challenges. Nevertheless, I am constantly aware of the many ways she makes me a better human being, and a better servant of God.

“Be Strong, Act Like a Man”

Conversation on the deck over wine and cheese before dinner.
Conversation on the deck over wine and cheese before dinner.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man….”
1 Kings 2:2 (NIV)

Over this past weekend Wendy and I enjoyed deep conversation with our friends. While the discussion ran the gamut from soup to nuts, there was definitely a recurring theme around families and relationships. As conversation meandered through hours of conversation, I noticed a recurring theme of men who had been the source of pain in their marriages and families:

  • The man who lives life to eat, drink, and be merry, but refuses to go deep with his friends, his wife, or his children.
  • The man who is relationally A.W.O.L. while physically present.
  • The man who twists and contorts the Biblical concept of submission into self-centered justification for being an ass to his wife and family.
  • The man who acts like a selfish child when his wife and children need him to step up and be a man.
  • The man who simply chooses out of relationship.
  • The man who caused generations of trouble by refusing to accept an adopted granddaughter as his own.
  • The man who simply walked away at conception.

This morning as I read David’s charge to Solomon to “be strong, act like a man” I was reminded of all of these personal illustrations from the weekend. It saddens me the soul wounds inflicted by men who don’t have a clue what it means to be a man. It saddens me that our culture seems to have, by-and-large, lost the art of raising boys into manhood.

Today, I am praying for the boys and young men who are in my spheres of influence. I am praying for my role as a friend, a mentor, a role model and a guide.

Five Ways I Try to Bless My Family

IMG_7694Then all the people left, each for their own home, and David returned home to bless his family. 1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

This little verse at the end of today’s chapter hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. David intentionally went home to “bless his family.” It’s a simple truth: I can be a blessing to my family, I can be a curse to my family, or I can be a non-factor. Which I will be is determined by my daily life, words, actions and decisions. I have found through experience that being a blessing to your family does not happen without intention.

I am really imperfect as a husband and father, but I do approach the roles with conscious intention and effort. Here are a five ways I consciously try to bless my family:

  • Keep my own spiritual life healthy. It starts with me. If things aren’t right in my own heart and life, I will not have the spiritual reserves to pour out to my loved ones.
  • Be considerate. This one is perhaps one that requires a lot of conscious mental effort for me. It’s as small and simple as taking a second to see if they need anything when I get up to refill my own glass. I’m a dreamer and a thinker. I get tunnel vision very easily, get lost in my own world, and forget to think about anyone else. I’ve learned that being a blessing to my family requires me to constantly and consciously cut through the fog of my own self-centric thoughts to consider, in the moment, what my family member needs and wants.
  • Speak words of love, gratitude and affirmation. Along the way I have come to realize just how important it is that my family hear me actually say what I feel and mean. How simple is it to say a few little words that go a long way:
    • I love you.
    • You look good. That looks good on you. You look beautiful
    • Well done.
    • Good job. I’m proud of you.
    • Thank you for _________ (dinner, doing the laundry, taking good care of me)
  • Serve them with a willing heart. One of the customer service skills that I’ve taught for years is an “ownership statement.” It’s one thing to do what the customer asks, but it makes an even stronger impression on the customer when you say, “Absolutely! I can do that for you.” I’ve always tried to make it a point with my family when asked to do something to respond “I’d be happy to do that for you.” Serving my loved ones is not a burden, it’s a blessing.
  • Send postcards. When I was in college and away from home for the first time, I learned the utter joy that comes with going to your mail box and finding a personal letter or postcard from a friend or family member. Realizing that my friend or loved one had taken the time to write a personal note, find my address, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail to me, that postcard became a tangible symbol of love. Now that the girls are grown and out on their own, I still try to send the occasional hand written postcard or personal note via snail mail. E-mail is easy, but a postcard is a little blessing.

When a Hallmark Card Just Won’t Do

English: Illuminated letter of Elkanah and his...
English: Illuminated letter of Elkanah and his two wives. Manuscript Den Haag, KB, 78 D 38 I (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:8 (NLT)

Trust me when I say that this was NOT the right thing for Elkanah to say to his wife as she struggled with infertility.

In my experience, men have a traditionally difficult time understanding women in general. When it comes to the depth of pain women experience when trying, and not succeeding, to conceive or bear children the complexity of thoughts and emotions becomes almost unfathomable for a man to understand or appreciate. Elkanah’s attempt at encouraging his wife, while I’m sure delivered from the best of intentions, only served to make Hannah feel more isolated and alone. His question convinced her that he did not have a clue what she was going through. As I read Elkanah’s question a second time, I imagined that I heard Hannah’s unspoken thought as it poured out of the anger and rage of her emotional pain: “No, Elkanah, at this moment I believe ONE son would be better than TEN of you!”

Walking with a spouse through the dark valley of something as emotionally wounding as infertility requires a tremendous amount of patience, compassion, courage, and perseverance. This is why many marriages to not survive the journey. I believe that no man is truly prepared for this journey and task. A pre-game pep talk doesn’t help. A pat on the back or a Hallmark card doesn’t help. Weak attempts at cheering her up doesn’t help.

Be present in the pain. Share the pain. Step into the pain with her. It is not easy. It is not comfortable. It is fraught with confusing moments. Even this will not help take the pain away and may not even make things better. She will, however, not be alone in the valley. There is hope in that.

The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

Source: Smithsonian via Flickr
Source: Smithsonian via Flickr

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
Song of Solomon 5:4 (NLT)

One of the things that I love about the Song of Solomon is the way the relational give and take develops between the young man and the young woman in the duet. Like all relationships, there is a progression of the relationship from the beginning of the song to the end. There is the initial infatuation with one another as they look upon one another and are impressed with what they see. Then there is the growing desire for one another as they seek to be in one another’s presence. In today’s chapter we feel the growing desire and anticipation of sexual intimacy.

The young woman is having another dream, and this time she hears the young man attempting to unlatch the door of her bedroom. Her heart is thrilled (and, I suspect, other parts of her as well). When she gets up to let him in, she finds him gone. Disappointed, she runs through the streets in a frantic search for him. The night watchmen find her and beat her up. You can see in the dream the anticipation of intimacy, the disappointment that it has not happened, and the intense feelings of personal pain and injury that she has not been able to consummate her love.

I have learned over time that sexual intimacy in marriage is best built with anticipation, just like the progression in Solomon’s song. While sex occasionally occurs at the spur of the moment, motivated by a surprisingly sudden surge of hormones, the truth is that there is typically a subtle song and dance that happens between me and Wendy. A glance and casual touch at the breakfast table hints at the possibility that this day may come to a passionate end. Hints are dropped by the wearing of things that the other has commented pleases his or her eye. A dab of cologne on a day that none is typically warranted. There is the casual touch in public that lingers a moment longer than usual. The mind is engaged. The eyes are engaged. The sense of smell is stimulated. The ears hear coded messages: “I shaved my legs today.”

Playful thoughts flitter in and out of each other’s minds during the day. Anticipation builds. A regular evening dinner takes on new layers of sensual meaning as each become aware of what I mentioned in yesterday’s post: There is a connection between senses. The feeding of one appetite will invariably lead to another. The main course tastes so good. The wine seems downright decadent, and savoring the dessert feels almost sinful.

One of the things that Solomon’s song subtly conveys to me is that the climactic, sexually intimate event of the day does not typically just happen. It happens when husband and wife learn and know one another’s subtle, sensory dance. It is me learning how to slowly feed multiple senses of my wife during the day in the ways she best responds. It is my wife learning just how to tease the deliberate build up of anticipation that will lead to a successful, intimate feast after dinner that night. There is an art to the intimacy between husband and wife that takes on the unique characteristics of the two artists involved in creating the intimate moment.

In contrast, I find that popular media (especially pornography) likes to portray sex like it’s most awesome when easily cranked out like one of those ultra high speed photocopiers at Kinko’s (yes, pun intended): Get it fast. Get it often. Get it easy. Everyone gets a copy. Sure, you get the picture – but it’s monochrome, impersonal, and unoriginal. Each one is just like the one before. It quickly becomes meaningless and lifeless. You crank out more copies hoping for something different in the output picture, but it will never be an original work of art.

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together. As Solomon’s Song suggests, there is a progression. It gets better, deeper, more refined, and even more powerful in ways neither husband nor wife could scarcely imagine, even in the intoxicating infatuation of the early relationship.

Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a work of art.

Captivated

wendy_book_bw LR

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT)

Cap-ti-vate (verb) from the Latin captivus 1. To attract and hold the attention of.

My friend John Homan recently sent me a self-published book of his essays and poems entitled Honest Haircuts (see link at bottom of this post). It’s been wonderful front-porch reading for these late summer evenings. One of my favorites (so far) has been this short entry:

What a Sucker

After 23 years, I am still helpless when I see the shape of her cheekbones, the softness of her eyes as she smiles at me, asking me to do something I don’t want to do.

I read that to Wendy the other night and we had a good laugh together. I totally identify with John’s powerlessness. He is captivated by his wife, just as I am by Wendy. Attracted to her constantly, my attention persistently held, I am compelled to love her even when she’s asking me to do something I don’t want to do.

Throughout God’s Message marriage is used as a metaphor for the relationship between Jesus and those who choose into a relationship with him. In fact, God goes so far as to call those who follow Jesus “the bride of Christ” which, even though it appalls my masculinity, I begin to understand more and more as I progress in my  journey. What John describes in his essay is exactly the reason why God uses the metaphor. As is constantly the case with what God has created (artist’s work expresses the artist’s spirit), there is a parallel between the physical universe God created and spiritual truth which is at the core of who God is.

I have chosen into a committed relationship with Jesus for much the same reasons as I have chosen into my relationship with Wendy. I am captivated. I am captivated by this one who loved me so much that He willingly gave up His own life to pay the penalty for all of my stupid and foolish mistakes, and chose to forgive me. I am compelled to follow, to ask, to seek, and to be continually knocked over and knocked out by my daily relationship with him.

Fill ‘er Up

2011-10-21 Autumn Boat RideShe brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12 (NLT)

In the book His Needs Her Needs, Willard Harley presents a very simple word picture to describe the give and take that happens within marriage on a moment by moment, day by day basis. He asks couples to picture an internal “love tank” that we all have. With our thoughts, words, and actions we can either make deposits in our spouses love tank that fill them up and produce an increasing sense of love and well being or we can make withrawls that slowly deplete the love tank until our spouse feels empty and drained, and depleted.

Wendy and I talk a lot about marriage. We talk a lot about our relationship and relationships in general. Like every marriage, ours is a union of two broken people living in a fallen world. We are in a unique situation. We work together for the same company out of our home office. We serve together in the visual tech ministry of our church. We re-create together as board members and participants in the local theatrical community. With little exception Wendy and I are around one another 24/7/365.

Ask Wendy or me about the other’s shortcomings and we can supply you with an ample list. We are far from perfect people, and being around one another all the time produces no shortage of opportunities to see one another at our worst. A good friend of mine recently asked me about his observation that there is a genuine loving-kindness he witnesses between Wendy despite the fact that we are around one another all the time. It’s really pretty simple I told him: she fills my love tank, and I do my best to fill hers.

Wendy has chosen in to the things I love. She’s joined the tragic ranks of Cubs fans. She switched allegiance from her Denver Broncos to make my Vikings her favorite team. To be honest, I know she really doesn’t care that much, but she knows that I do and that’s the point. She is considerate of the things that trip my trigger and makes an effort to trip my trigger on a constant basis. I am so knocked out, blessed that I want nothing more than to return the favor and consideration by discovering what trips her trigger and returning the favor. It’s been a process, but I think I’m getting there. When things get tense between us, and they do, the anger and ill feelings quickly drown in our love tanks which are overflowing.

I have observed many marriages which operate in a daily tit-for-tat game of competitive love tank withdrawl: “If you get to do this, then I get to do that. It’s my turn. Let me check the ledger and check the tally. You owe me. It’s time to pay the debt, baby and believe me the interest on that debt has been compounding daily!” Rather than viewing the fulfillment of their spouses need as a good thing for the relationship as a whole, they begin to view it as a diminishment of their own love tank.

I know that this is a simplistic word picture in the complex relationship that is marriage. Yet when I read the above verse, my soul says “That nails it. That describes Wendy. She makes constant deposits in my love tank that far outnumber the withdrawls.”

Today, I’m reminded that I can’t control my spouse, but I can control my own thoughts, words and actions. I want to do good, and not harm. I want to make deposits into Wendy’s love tank, not withdrawls.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 24

When a man takes a new wife, he is not to go out with the army or be given any business or work duties. He gets one year off simply to be at home making his wife happy. Deuteronomy 24:5 (MSG)

Having been through a long-suffering marriage that ended divorce and having walked beside friends in their own marital struggles, I’ve found that the issues which plague a marriage are often present at the very beginning of a relationship. I’ve both experienced and heard many others say they could look back and see the problems which eventually grew to choke the relationship surfaced in the honeymoon and quickly spread through the early years of the marriage.

The first steps are critical to the success of the marital journey. The relational roles and patterns which are formed in those initial months very often set the course for the direction the relationship will take and the destination to which it will eventually arrive. This is not to say that couples can never overcome a rocky start to the marriage, but the truth of the matter is that they often do not.

How fascinating that God’s direction, given in ancient days, was for the groom to take a year off of work or war to spend at home with his bride. God makes it clear that time and proximity are crucial ingredients for the success of any relationship, especially that of marriage. Women are complex creatures in which men find eternal mystery. Unlocking that mystery requires our own God given sense focus, strength, and tenacity. If we go AWOL at the beginning of the relationship, it is very likely we will have lost the keys forever in our flight from responsibility.

It is said: “happy wife, happy life.” We men would do well to remember (and by that I mean we need constant reminder) that a woman’s happiness begins with a partner who is present, engaged and attentive. These ingredients do not guarantee the success of the relationship, but without them the odds of failure become a sure bet.

Day 11: Your Current Relationship

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 11: Your Current Relationship

I get the feeling that this set of blogging questions was written by a young person. There’s sort of a preconceived notion that significant relationships are a busy, revolving door.  But, I guess they do call it a blogging “challenge.”

I’ve already shared much in this 30 day challenge about my wife, and so with today’s question I’m focused more on our relationship and our marriage. I believe that in many ways we are a lot like every other married couple. Wendy gets cranky with my “dude-ness” as I leave messes behind, leave dishes on the counter, and get myopically focused on what I’m thinking about to the exclusion of anything and anyone else in the room. I am often frustrated with a dizzying plethora of female preferences and expectations regarding every facet of life in the house. Then there’s the personality differences with which every couple must struggle.

Anyone who knows us will testify that Wendy is demonstrative with her emotions. She is never one to avoid a conflict when there’s something irritating her. I, on the other hand, am easy going and never one to jump into conflict when there’s a way I can avoid it to see if it will just go away. You get the picture. And despite the differences in our personalities there is a reciprocal positive effect that we have on one another. Wendy teaches me how to be more honest and forthright with my feelings as I help her understand that the first emotionally explosive reaction to something is not always the most accurate nor helpful to the situation.

Those are the daily realities of living together with our flawed and self-centered humanity. Nevertheless, those irritations pale in comparison to the love we share and the joy of walking the journey together. As I mentioned the other day, we are together all the time. We work together out of our home offices and we enjoy the same activities. We are together more than almost any couple our age that I know, and I can’t imagine living life any other way. It feels strange when I’m away from the home office for a day of client meetings. I can’t imagine of better, more complimentary companion. Theatre, movies, books, art, conversation, music, company, dance, wine, Cubs and Vikings. We share and enjoy so many things in life together.

Blessed.