Asking myself why I want her to change…
I have been thinking about this subject for a while now. I’ve even tried to write about it once or twice with decidedly poor results, causing me to give up and put it aside for another day. I’m going to give it another shot today and hope it works out better.
It was probably a month ago, or sometime around then, that I found myself faced with what should be a simple question. I had been talking to Aileen about some things in her life and character just the way husbands and wives do. I was trying to be a good husband, helping her work through a couple of areas where I thought she should examine her heart to see if she needed to make some changes. She would be the first to admit that there are areas where she can and should change to better reflect the Christ-like character she wants to have. And, as her husband, I have a better view than anyone else. And so I occasionally raise such issues. But it turns out that I’m sinful too. There are many areas in my life where I know I need to commit to change–areas that still have not been brought under the Lordship of Christ. As I spoke to her I began to ask myself, “Why do I want her to change?” Again, this should be a simple question, but as I began to unravel my heart, and as I began to try to get to the bottom of my motives, I was rather surprised at what I found.
Yesterday our pastor opened his sermon by talking about the many young men who have come to him of the course of his pastoral ministry asking him, “How do I know if I really love a girl?” He suggested this as a useful response: You know you love someone when you feel profoundly committed to them and to their good. And it does seem like a good response. This response helped me tie together some of the thoughts that have been trying to coalesce in my mind these past weeks.
I am committed to Aileen. There is no doubt about it. She is the one for me and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to make her happy. I love her to death. This Wednesday we’ll celebrate our ninth anniversary and I love her now more than ever. I am committed to her good as well. But this is where things get tricky; this is where the lines seem to blur. What is her good? It seems clear to me that what is best for her is to have her character conformed more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. Her good is Christ-likeness. And thus when I challenge her on areas in her life, when I seek after her good, the ultimate goal should be to help her see where she is falling short of the example of Christ and to help her strive towards the character of a Christian. I hope she holds this out as the goal as well when she feels that she needs to challenge or confront me.
The problem is that often I confuse her good with my good. And this is what I’ve been thinking about and trying to write about all this time: how often do my concerns for change in her life really center around me? How often, when I address an area in her life am I really just trying to make my own life easier? How often do my exhortations, which I strive to make gentle and loving, revolve around how she has fallen short of my standards rather than God’s?
It turns out, I think, that my motives are often far from pure. Far too often I hold out my needs, my desires, myself as the standard. I’m trying to invoke change, not to lead her closer to the Savior, but to conform her to standards I’ve set for her. It turns out that in supposedly seeking her good, I’m actually seeking my own. How utterly self-centered of me.
So this has been my challenge. Am I really committed to my wife being a more godly woman, or am I content with trying to just make her a better wife (with better being defined by me)? It’s been an interesting process and I think and I hope that I am beginning to see it all through new eyes.
(I don’t often add this kind of note to the end of my posts, but I want to clarify that I don’t scold my wife constantly. Neither does she have an abnormal number of areas in her life where she is in desperate need of change. I think I’m discussing here the kind of conversations that happen in any marriage and between any husband and wife…)