If you don’t mind, I am going to repeat myself a bit. You can consider this letter as something of a summary of everything I have written to you over the last few months—with maybe some new stuff here or there.
It has become something of a custom in evangelical circles to use Father’s Day as an occasion for kicking the men around. But in these sessions, the charge to “man up” has taken on a very specific meaning, and that meaning is that the men are supposed to find out what their wives really want, and then to do their level best to try to deliver that, nothing but that, and with no back chat.
The move was ingenious because it tells the men to do what the men really ought to be doing (acting like men), while at the same time filling that phrase up with effeminate content.
The standards for married life are given by God to the man and to the woman. They are not given by the woman to the man, and they are not given by the man to the woman. These standards, outlined for us by God in His Word, teach us to build on the foundation of the created order, while at the same time budgeting for the reality of sin.
There was an old saying, “It’s a man’s world,” and the last generation or so has done its level best to flip that script, such that we must now say, “It’s a woman’s world.” But actually it is neither—this is God’s world. His standards make sense, and nothing else makes sense. If we listen to Him, we know that the foundational sexual order is good, as it was His idea, and that men sin in ways that disrupt that order, and that women sin in different ways to disrupt that order. Feminists and masculinists get into their arguments about which way should prevail, but that is like arguing whether it is better to fall off the right side or the left side of a horse.
One of the central ways that God’s creative design in the formation of sex is denied is through a blind faith in a blind evolution. Evolution is a distortion of everything. It makes us assume that everything is haphazard and ad hoc, and that we can jury-rig things however we want. What this does is wreck our obligation to be grateful—and gratitude is essential to every happy marriage.
And why would sex have evolved anyway? Organisms prior to the “evolution” of sex had figured out a way to multiply without a partner, right? Isn’t that a secure way of doing it? What evolutionary advantage was it to the first organism that decided to outsource this, making it dependent on the luck of finding a mate? And why did that mate happen to evolve the counterpart sexual organs that would even work? And what were the odds of these two freaks meeting and liking each other? Not a smart move.
So sex is an invented thing, an artifact. It is not the end result of a blind process—the result of time and chance, acting on matter. As a created thing, we see that it is involved in everything, it affects everything. If God fashioned this, when He was working with the dust of the ground, He was creating a man the entire time. And when He took Adam’s rib to fashion the woman, He was creating a woman the entire time. This means that our sexual identities permeate every aspect of our interactions. We do what we do, all day long, as a man, or as a woman. Each of us has an assigned nature.
So God is the Creator God, overseeing all of this. Because we reject evolution, and affirm the foundational doctrine of creation, it follows that we must also affirm the doctrine of providence. God superintends everything. But the secret things belong to God—and the things revealed belong to us and to our children (Dt. 29:29). This means that we must not try to wrest the control of providence out of God’s hands. What I mean by this is that we shouldn’t fall for the doctrine of “The One.” This means that when you are “surveying the field,” you shouldn’t be thinking about how to figure out which one is “the will of God for you.” He has a decretal will, but He is not going to tell you what it is. You should select a mate in line with “the things revealed.” Does she fear the Lord? Does she revere His Word? Are you attracted to her? Does she look up to you?
But the fact that you found her, and like her, and she likes you, does not change the fact that there will still be power dynamics in your relationship. God has assigned you the role of serving as the head of the relationship, and she is going to want to test you, to see if you are up to that challenge. When she tests you, she (simultaneously) wants you to win, and she wants to win. If she wins, she will have gotten what she wants, but at the same time (at a deeper level) she will be disappointed in herself—but especially in you. If you are the head, and you are, then you need to demonstrate that you are capable of serving in that role.
We are souls and bodies together, and our souls have a spiritual nature that were designed to animate a physical body. We are more than animals—created as we are in the image of God—but we are not less than animals. The husband and wife have physical needs that are the result of having physical bodies. We have sexual needs. We have a need for companionship. We have a need for progeny. This means that a man and his wife must learn how to (lovingly) use one another. The fact that we tend to recoil from any use of that word use means that we have not shaken off our gnosticism completely yet. A moment’s reflection should reveal how necessary this is. For a man to say that he refuses to “use” his wife for anything means that he is actually saying that he doesn’t need her. That doesn’t sound so attractive, does it?
In your relationship, you want to take care that you prioritize giving over getting, obviously. But, at the same time, it is not possible for a man to give to his wife sexually unless he (physiologically) wants to receive something also. He can’t give unless he is receiving, and something analogous is going on with her.
You also want to give what the Scriptures tell you your spouse needs, and not every little thing that enters your head. There is such a thing as oversharing, and so don’t do it. One of the things you need to give to your wife is your self-confidence. And if you are running everything by her for her approval first, that is not self-confidence. She needs a man who wakes up in the morning knowing what he thinks. She needs a man who keeps certain things to himself. She also needs a man who talks to her, and so he has to figure what kind of conversation is a gift and what kind of conversation is him imitating a sucking chest wound.
God doesn’t expect us to get to know our spouse starting from absolute scratch. He has given us a head start, and has done this through also giving us mothers, and sisters, and movies, and books, and . . . stereotypes. Stereotypes are simply generalizations that extend over multiple generations. Women tend to be this way, and men tend to be that way. Only an idiot would assume that this is an inviolable rule, like triangles needing to have three sides. So treat it for what it is . . . a head start. You have a lot to learn, and God has been kind to you by making women alike in many ways. Stereotypes are not bigotry, but rather are a way of navigating a very complicated world.
At the basic creation level, your woman wants exactly what you want, only from the opposite side. When you come together in that way, God is on both sides of the equation, and the result is great blessing. At the level of someone who struggles with sin, just like you, your woman wants exactly want you want, only from the opposite side—you both want your own way. In this sort of situation, the devil is on both sides of the equation, and the end result is a lot of unhappiness.
If you want your wife to make room for you and your masculinity, then show her how that is done—by making room for her and her femininity. It is certainly all right for you to be a man, right? But it should follow that it is more than all right for her not to be a man. And that means you should strive to be distinct notes, to use my earlier illustration, but with each of you hitting your pitch, and with a resultant harmony. You making space for each other is why the Golden Rule will be liberation for you both. You won’t be giving the other what you would like to get. You are giving what you were designed by God to give.
The only way this can work is if the Holy Spirit is indwelling both of you. Your marriage needs to bound together by the God who alone can make it glorious.
You will be tempted to sin in your relationship, but the name of that sin is not testosterone. Initiative is good. A certain level of aggressiveness is good. Your desire for sex is good. All of that is the invention of God. You didn’t think all that up, He did. Problems arise when you take those good things, and twist them around in ways to “suit yourself.” When you do this, you wind up blunting the good things themselves. You think that testosterone demands masturbation, but masturbation is an enervating vice.
And to wrap it all up, remember that lying is a very poor foundation for a good marriage. Commit yourself to the Lord, and He will direct your paths. This means that you must reject the kind of apologies that seek to patch things up dishonestly. Apologies that lie are no good for both of you.
Take these things to heart. Put them into practice. If you do, then you will find yourselves happily married, as a man and a woman. You have not turned yourself into a girl friend which, if you succeeded would make your wife a lesbian. Nobody wants that.