Understanding Who You Are in Christ

I laughed out loud when I saw it. While waiting in line at a grocery store, I read the cover of a leading women’s magazine and just had to write down the title of one of its articles: “Why so many smart, good women put up with snarly, dreadful men.”

You know what made me laugh? I can’t even imagine a leading
men’s magazine — say, GQ or Esquire — with an article titled “Why
so many honorable, decent men put up with conniving, manipulative
women.” It would never happen. Nor will you ever see books
titled Men Who Love Too Much or The Men-Haters and the Men Who Love Them.

There’s a good reason for this. Historically, neurologically, socially, and even biblically, I believe one can make the case that women tend to be more invested in their relationships and marriages han are men. As my friend Dr. Melody Rhode, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist, puts it, “Women are bent to their husbands; we just are.” This reality has its roots in the very first family.

Your Marriage Makeover Begins with You

Back in Genesis 3, following the fall, God tells Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband” (verse 16). Respected Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch suggest that the Hebrew language here evokes a “desire bordering on disease.”1 It comes from a root word connoting a “violent craving” for something.

Some women exhibit more of this than others. I recently listened to a talk program in which a woman described how her husband had carried on a secret affair for more than four years. The husband had acted cruelly on many fronts. He had introduced his mistress to his wife, for example, and in his wife’s absence he had brought the mistress home. In fact, he even took his mistress into his wife’s bed. The illicit relationship ended only when the mistress died.

But do you know what most surprised me about the call? The wife seemed more concerned about losing this despicable man than she did about facing a life without him! Even though he had disrespected her as deeply as possible, trampled on their marital intimacy, and offended their marriage bed, she felt more afraid of waking up without him than of waking up next to him. In fact, she really wanted to find out more about the mistress! What did she look like? What kind of personality did she have? What did her husband see in her?

Contrast this with a recent question-and-answer article in Sports Illustrated, in which a number of professional male athletes were asked if they would ever take back a “runaway bride,” a woman who left them at the altar and embarrassed them in front of their family and friends. Not a single athlete said he would. One of the men responded so vehemently and colorfully that I can’t even print his answer in this book.

Why the discrepancy? In some cases, it may indeed be that women are more spiritually and emotionally mature, willing to forgive for the sake of the family and larger considerations. But in other cases, it might be less noble than that. Some women never rise above a sinful propensity to define themselves according to their likability — or acceptance — by men. Unfortunately, some men seem to have an ultrasensitive spiritual radar that picks up on this. They somehow intuit a woman’s spiritual neediness and will exploit it for their own ends.

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Because of Christ’s work and the conquering power of the Holy Spirit, however, Christian women can be set free from such psychological dependency and destruction. Listen to a passage from 1 Corinthians 7, as rendered by Eugene Peterson in The Message: “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life” (verse 17).

Did you catch that last line? God, not your marital status, defines your life.

Is this true of you? The more it is, the more success you will have in moving your man, because weak women usually forfeit their influence.

Look at this from a very practical perspective: do you care much about what a person for whom you have little respect thinks of you? Probably not. So then, how is such a person going to influence you? When their opinion doesn’t matter, they may communicate clearly, honestly, and practically — but you’re still not going to listen to them. In the same way, if your husband doesn’t respect you, if you have sinfully put his acceptance of you over your identity as a daughter of God, then how will you ever influence him for the better?

Now let’s put a positive spin on this. If someone you really respect, greatly admire, and enjoy spending time with comes to you with a concern, aren’t you going to give their words extra thought?

Aren’t you at least going to consider that they may have a point, and that you need to pay attention?

Of course you are.

Adapted from Sacred Influence Gary L. Thomas.

Copyright © 2006 by Gary L. Thomas, published by Zondervan, used with permission.