Mark and I have been reading Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich. Interesting book. If you're not familiar with it, it focuses primarily on the passage from Ephesians 5:33 which states:
"However, each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
Those who know the Bible are familiar with this passage, especially if we are married. But, have we fully digested what it truly means to "respect our husbands"? For me, respecting Mark has not been difficult to do, so honestly, I have found myself only mildly embracing this 'instruction'. But, the book points something out that struck me: the fact that our husbands value respect not as much as they value love but as much as we women value love. If they were given the option between receiving love or respect, they would choose respect. To me, that is a foreign thought as a woman. Love is so much more important to me.
What has also become an interesting topic with some other ladies I know is the concept of 'unconditionally respecting' our husbands. As we enter the marriage, I assume that we hope for and expect unconditional love, as Christ loves us...do we not? To be loved despite our follies, our irritating habits, our past...etc. Right? Well, that's exactly what our men need from us with respect. To respect them despite their mistakes, their choices, their behavior...etc. This entire concept was brought up in my ladies' Bible study and I was sadly disappointed to discover that the other ladies did not view respect this way. Their respect for their husbands is conditional and they seemed pretty firm in believing that was acceptable. It made me so sad.
Of course, respecting our husbands, unconditionally, is not an easy task at all times. Yes, they will make poor choices, they will behave in ugly ways...we will not always like them. But, as Christ loves us despite all that we've done and continue to do, so are we to aspire to treat our husbands in the same light. It is an act of obedience not of feeling, sometimes. The scripture does not say "love your wife as you love yourself when it is easy to do and the wife must respect her husband only when he deserves it". And, Christ does not love us only when we are perfectly following Him, nor does He call us to love others and treat others kindly only when they deserve it. He instructs us to love our enemies, to love the unlovable...all the more, we should be loving and respecting our husbands, should we not? The point of all this is not to say that it is easy. No. Of course it isn't. If it was easy to do then the Lord wouldn't have to make such pointed instructions for us, now would He? These things are difficult sometimes, yes. And, no, we cannot always do it on our own. One girl in my study said that if her husband cheated on her, she would not be able to handle it and she would leave without looking back, knowing that is against what the Lord asks of us. Of course, I believe that is what we would all initially feel. Of course, we would not be able to handle it. But I have been embracing, more and more lately, the awesome power of our God. In saying that 'we cannot handle it and we would just give up', we are limiting His power. No, we cannot handle it, but HE surely can. And, when we rely on Him, He works the impossible. Dealing with infidelity is not something that I am familiar with in the least bit and I cannot say that I know how I would respond to it. But, in knowing what I know now and seeing the testimonies of the Lord's work around me and in other seemingly impossible marriages, I know the restorative power of Jesus and that He can work the impossible when we let Him. So, in that light, shouldn't we respect our husbands unconditionally, with the same reliance on our Heavenly Father? It's an act of obedience and obedience does not always feel "fun" or easy.
So, what does unconditionally respecting our husbands actually look like? Well, this is something I'm still learning. And, it is hard to think about. I'm trying to come up with something terribly disrespectful that Mark or any husband could do...and then ask myself how I would respond and how could I respect that. With my flesh?...no, that's impossible. Let's see...let's say my or your husband chose to do something very dishonest. Are we supposed to respect that action? No, I don't think that's what it's saying. I believe it's like the call to love. You know how you've heard the saying "love the person, hate their sin"? I think that's how it's supposed to be in respecting our men. Respect him for who he is and who you married. Right? Does this make sense?
I started reading this Love and Respect book with admitted cynicism. But, obviously, I am gaining much more out of it now, than I thought I would. I guess bringing it up as a discussion topic with other women started to give me insight to the truth of it and how we, Christian wives, need to freshen up on the instructions the Lord has given us. I desire a fabulous marriage...and I, honestly, believe that I do have one. But, I want more! We need to always be growing and pursuing new heights in the Lord. In all respects, Mark and I are still 'newly weds' (4 years) - so we have lots of growing to do! I want to be a power-house couple that emanates the fragrance of Christ!
Anyway...stepping off my soapbox now. Those were my current jumbled thoughts on this and I needed to unload them after the difficult discussion I had with the ladies at my study. I would love to hear other thoughts!