(Marriage Ministry Mondays)
The several shelves, stocked with spices of every imaginable type, were a little overwhelming and I was in deep thought as I studied the various bottles, tins, and cylinders. The booming male voice startled me a bit, “Do you cook much?” I looked over at the hulk of a man who was standing beside me, also puzzling over the spice shelves. “Yes . . . I do” was my response.
He was more than six feet tall, in his early thirties, with elaborate tattoos rippling across his muscular frame. His sheepish demeanor didn’t fit his physically intimidating exterior. “Do you see any chicken seasoning?” he asked, without turning his head from scanning the scores of spice offerings. I joined him in his quest and pointed to a tin labeled Poultry Seasoning.
“Will that work?” I asked. He picked it up, then referred back to a note in his hand and looked helpless. He almost sounded like he was pleading with me, “Do you think this is what she wants?”
I was struck by how this hulk of a man was trembling with fear over buying the correct spice. “I tried to call, but she’s not answering, and her note says McCormick’s Chicken Seasoning. I’ve got to get the right thing, she’ll be upset if I come home with something else.”
That did it. His helpless plea plunged me into help-mode in earnest, “Oh, right . . . gotcha, um . . . that isn’t McCormick’s . . .” I started scanning another area and spotted the brand, saw that it was indeed chicken seasoning, but the label also informed us that it was “salt free.” Who wants a “salt free” spice on chicken?
“This is the McCormick’s chicken seasoning, but it’s salt-free” I tell him, handing over the container. We both scour the McCormick’s area to see if we can come up with a version that includes salt. “Do you think she’d be upset if I get this one?” By now, my heart is breaking for this total stranger. It’s obvious that his fierce woman has him living in terror of messing up, bringing home the wrong thing. “I’ve tried twice to call, but she’s not answering.”
“Why don’t you take a picture of it and send it to her? That way, even if she doesn’t answer, you attempted—that should cover you.” He grabbed onto hope that texting the picture might protect him from her wrath. “Yeah . . . that should cover me . . .” he poured out his gratitude to me, as I moved my buggy down the aisle, by now forgetting what spice I’d stopped to find. But as I walked away, once again I was astounded by the power of a woman to inflict anxiety in a grown man.
“What’s the hardest thing about going to the grocery store, as a man?” was the question I asked LeRoy when I got home. “Being outside of my environment, I’m not a cook, so I’m not sure how to shop.” I was relieved he didn’t say “Not pleasing you” as his first response. I’d hate if I inflicted that much fear in him every time I asked him to go to the store (which he does with regularity).
On this first “Marriage-Ministry Mondays” post, LeRoy wants to share a word of encouragement for husbands when it comes to the fear of not meeting your wife’s expectations:
It is a good thing, as husbands, to want to please our wives, but that desire can quickly morph into a sinful fear of not pleasing our wives, which can actually be idolatry. The twisted fear of disappointing our wives can spread and entrench itself in our lives where it becomes debilitating over the course of the marriage. That kind of fear is a trap for men. What began as a good desire—pleasing your woman, can create bitterness if we don’t recognize and deal with sinful fear.
Ultimately all of our sinful fears can be overcome by our good desire to please the Lord above all else. Our desire to please our wife can become an idol we’re enslaved to, but when we confess our struggle with those fears, and set our hearts to please God, it will give us the courage to have an honest (humble, but frank) conversation with our wives.
That conversation might go something like this:
“Babe, I know I messed up. I brought home the wrong thing from the store. I’m sorry for the difficulty that might cause you, but I want you to know that I tried. And I struggled with sinful fear. I know you don’t mean to intimidate me, or cause me to shut down emotionally, it’s not your fault—it’s mine for letting my emotional state be dependent on your affirmation of me. I love you, and I’m thankful that you love me—even when I mess up, but when I mess up, I really struggle with overwhelming fear of disappointing you. Instead, my focus has got to be on the fact that no matter how many times I may disappoint you—God knows my desire is to be pleasing, first to Him and then to you, and most importantly, God loves me—even when I disappoint you or don’t meet your expectations. And knowing that He loves and accepts me, no matter what, is what gives me courage to press on, even when I mess up.”
Perfect love casts out all fear.
[box]“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).[/box]
“Babe, I love you more than I love myself. I love you enough to shake off the fear, and courageously face your disappointments, letting you know that I sincerely want to please you, but as a man, I know I’ll fail at times and I just won’t be able to accomplish what you’re asking. But I commit to loving you enough to not cave to fear. Because fearing you really indicates that I care more about myself than you, that I care more about what you think of me, how you’re going to treat me, what your reaction to me will be. When I get me out of the way, and love you truly, admitting that I may fail at times, but knowing that I’m held secure by the perfect love of the Father, and that love allows me to love you purely, then I will be able to love you with the perfect love that casts out all fear.”
Now, this conversation doesn’t include the husband asking for appreciation, but I (Kim) am encouraging the wives reading this to think about turning that frustration over an ill-chosen spice into appreciation for a man who tries. A man who tries, and doesn’t explode in anger or cave to fear when you let him know that he brought home the wrong product, is a rare find. And any husband who is attempting to shop for you—should be appreciated. The frustration over this misunderstanding is definitely not worth the energy you’ll expend, and communicating to your husband that he is valuable—no matter what product he brought home—matters more than the small adjustments you may have to make because of his mistake.
If beating up your man when he disappoints you has become a familiar pattern in your relationship, ask his forgiveness for that. Today.
If your husband has a sinful fear of disappointing you, talk about it together, and reassure him of your love and acceptance. May you both be rooted and grounded in the great love of Christ—looking to Him alone for your worth and value—and finding courage to move forward because of His sacrifice for you.
Any of this sound familiar?
If this post made you a bit uncomfortable, or you see a slight version of yourself in any of this, I hope you’ll share this post with your spouse, and have a heart-to-heart offering one another grace.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net/hyena reality