by Gianina van Reenen
We all know what social media is like. A few weeks ago, as I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, some posts made me laugh and others made me cringe.
The one specific post I cringed at was a meme. It read, “A real man never hurts a woman. Be very careful when you make a woman cry, because God counts her tears. The woman came out of a man’s rib, not from his feet to be walked on, and not from his head to be superior, but from his side to be equal. Under the arm to be protected, and next to the heart to be loved.”
It is not so much the meme that upset me, but the thinking behind it. Let me explain.
I became a wife two and a half years ago, and in this relatively short time I have learnt many things about my husband, but even more so about myself.
Just like any other woman, I can identify with this meme. I want my husband to make me feel loved, cherished and protected. I want him to invest his time and love into our relationship. I also want my husband to notice the long hours that I put into preparing our daily meals, decorating the house so that it feels warm and cosy, and I want him to appreciate the fact that the washing is done, and his clothes are ironed (I am grateful that my husband helps with the chores in our household, so I cannot claim to do everything here). I know that some of these needs may seem shallow, or even ridiculous, but ever since we got married I’ve become aware of my deep need to matter to him and to be affirmed by him.
I remember when my husband and I were still dating. We both had the best intentions towards each other. And since the relationship was still new, we were both sensitive towards each other’s feelings. Since there was a lot at stake, compromising was easy.
During the six months of our engagement, however, this started to change. We not only communicated our needs, but we were eager to see them met – me more so than him. And, oh boy, when we got married, we both realised how selfish we actually are.
Sometimes, I ‘walked over’ my husband, because I was too selfish and broken to communicate to him what I was feeling; I wasn’t even always sure what my feelings were or even what had caused them. At other times, I would ‘act superior’, manipulating him into doing what I wanted, or how I wanted something done – only to realise afterward what my schemes actually were. Because of my brokenness, I was unable to always be what my husband had needed me to be. In many ways, I fell short. You see, even I couldn’t uphold the standards of this meme.
I realised that I am in fact fallible: I am not always strong, not always selfless or loving or even at times easy to live with. Nevertheless, neither is my husband, and expecting him to be would be foolish.
My expectations had to be managed…
The reason why this meme upset me is because it states that, “God counts her tears”. The thinking behind this meme is admirable, but it is flawed. I am sure that whoever wrote it meant to say that men should take care of women, love them and protect them, and avoid anything that remotely resembles the opposite. Instead, it conveys this idea that real men should never hurt women. But what about us, women?
Now you need to hear me clearly. I am not saying that it is okay for someone to hurt or treat their wives (or husbands for that matter) as they see fit – the Bible is full of admonishment as to how husbands and wives should treat each other and how God will hold each of us accountable to our actions.
What I am saying is that we all are growing and being transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). But, this process is difficult and we need to allow for it in our husband’s lives as we so graciously allow for it in ours. We need to be generous in extending the grace we so easily have for ourselves to our husbands.
Being married made me realise that, even though I intend not to, I sometimes hurt my husband. So why, then, would I as someone who falls short, expect my husband to do everything I know I cannot do myself? In other words, why would I expect him to be perfect when I know I am not?
You see, my husband has the exact same needs as I do, some just look different. In the past few years, God has revealed to me what my husband’s needs are. Just like me, he desires to be loved, cherished and protected. As his wife, I get to thank him for the long hours that he works to support our family financially. He deserves to feel like the king of our house, so I do things that will make him feel special (Ephesians 5:25). When he goes through a tough season, he deserves unconditional love and support. I am the one who gets to protect his heart, no matter what.
Just like me, he goes through different seasons and experiences heartache. Just like me, he falls short.
It occurred to me that many times, we (the wives of our dear husbands) have idealistic expectations. We, indirectly, place pressure on our husbands that they cannot live up to. We will always be disappointed. They will always be discouraged. Worse still, we cannot survive this pressure either. So why do we hold this before our husbands, even though this is something that we know they can never attain to – even if it is only on a subconscious level?
God counts his tears too. And He will hold us accountable for how we care for and love our husbands.
What the past few years have taught me is that we ALL are human, and we ALL fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all make mistakes. Everything isn’t always ‘sunshine and roses’; the Bible makes this clear too. But, having grace with each other, and allowing for these mistakes to occur and figuring out how both of us can learn from them, makes this journey worthwhile.
My husband and I are painfully aware of our shortcomings. On the other hand we are just as aware of the love that we have for each other despite our ups and downs.
We do not zoom in on one another’s shortcomings. Instead, we pray, we encourage, we love and have grace with each other. (Since I am the one writing here, I can only speak for myself, but I know the same holds true for both of us.)
Contrary to popular culture, I pray for him as often as I can. I try to pay attention when we are together, so that I can learn to love him the way that he needs to be loved; not the way I want to love him. I pray that God will teach me how to love him, and honour him as the king of our household. I try to encourage, support, and continually tell him that I believe in him. Even when circumstances look dire.
I do not partner with the Accuser, who accuses him before God, day and night (Revelation 12:10). I try to focus on building him up and reminding him of God’s truth. Because of the blood of Christ, he is worthy and deserves to be loved (although I’m fully aware that I will never be able to out-love God, who surely loves my husband more than I ever can).
This is how God wants to renew our minds (Romans 12:2). We need to actively resist the tide of popular culture, and be living examples of God’s love in the home, first. We need to have a reservoir of grace for each other instead of unrealistic expectations. Yes, by the grace of God we will grow. But we don’t need to make this process more difficult than it already is. We must be willing to be realistic, honest and vulnerable before each other.
The secret ingredient is grace.