On Saturday, my friend Dina asked me to do a Bible study with her, and she chose Ephesians. I decided that if I read it right away, it would give me more time to think about it. So I was on the treadmill today listening to all six chapters of it, and listening to some parts over. I have an NIV dramatized Bible on my smartphone, so it’s super easy to listen to. Something stood out to me when I was listening to Ephesians 5 though, so I wanted to write about it.
Look at this from Ephesians 5:25-31:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
30 because we are members of his body.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
I have always tried to apply this verse when dealing with women, and even when mentoring men. In my relationships, I try to listen to the woman’s story and then try to think of where she is trying to get to in her life as a Christian. To help her along, I try to engineer activities that will allow her to grow in strength and confidence by achieving better and better things. There is no shortcut to confidence based on mere words, you have to help her do hard things so she has the experiences of feeling scared, failing, practicing more, then finally succeeding. Although a woman might think that it’s fine to study English for a year, then drop out and sit around the house drinking beer and watching TV, a good man will not think that’s acceptable. If a man loves a woman, then he wants to build her up into something nice for God. And in truth, that will be more fulfilling for her in the long run, although it might conflict with her feelings in the short run.
C.S. Lewis makes the same point in “The Problem of Pain”:
Finally we come to an analogy full of danger, and of much more limited application, which happens, nevertheless, to be the most useful for our special purpose at the moment—I mean, the analogy between God’s love for man and a man’s love for a woman. It is freely used in Scripture. Israel is a false wife, but her heavenly Husband cannot forget the happier days; ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness.’ 6 Israel is the pauper bride, the waif whom her Lover found abandoned by the wayside, and clothed and adorned and made lovely and yet she betrayed Him .7 ‘Adulteresses’ St James calls us, because we turn aside to the ‘friendship of the world’, while God ‘jealously longs for the spirit He has implanted in us’.8 The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or wrinkle is endurable? For the truth which this analogy serves to emphasize is that Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’ which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved; his ‘feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails’. Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.
[…]We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”
Imagine that you have signed up for swimming lessons and then your instructor takes you aside and says “listen, you really have talent at swimming. I think that you could compete in the Olympics if you apply yourself. I want you to work harder than everyone else here, and practice more on your own.” How would you feel? The extra practice is going to cut into your TV and popcorn eating time. You are not even sure that you want to be an Olympic swimmer. What good is it to you if you are one? Why can’t your instructor just accept you as you are and leave you alone to do whatever you want? If he loved you,wouldn’t he just let you do what you wanted? Well… that’s the challenge of letting yourself be led; recognizing leadership as love, and submitting to it.
Choosing a good leader
I have some advice for women who encounter men who believe that they have talent and who try to get them to grow into something better. A good man who wants to marry you is going to audition for the role of husband by trying to lead you upward. That’s what love is, self-sacrifice designed to help the other person grow. It can be scary to let a man lead you. Letting a man lead you is especially hard if you have been indoctrinated by feminism to not trust men, or if you have had experiences with bad men who abused your trust and vulnerability. What if what he wants you to do is hard, and exposes you to failure? That won’t feel good. Would he reject you if you failed? That wouldn’t feel good. How can you tell if this man can be trusted when so many others have failed to be trustworthy? Aren’t men all the same?
So here is some advice for picking a good leader. You can look around at some of the other people that this man has tried to lead, and see how it has worked out. Are the other people that he’s mentored happy with the results? Did they achieve more with his mentoring than without it? Has anyone he mentored been left in a worse state than they were in when he started investing in them? Were any of the people he mentored rejected for not being good enough? If they tried but failed to be perfect, did the man give up on them or was he delighted that they tried and achieved something less than perfect? Does he try to surround you with other people who are older and wiser so that they can mentor you and support you as well? I think that answering those kinds of questions can show whether the leading is meant to help you or harm you. The answers to those questions counterbalance the feelings that we all have when someone tries to love us upward.
And if a man isn’t trying to audition for the husband role by leading you, then you should ask yourself why.
- this doesn’t apply to dating, only courting. Also, I don’t believe that men should not be allowed to ask women out until they have a degree / trade and a job and some job experience
- this advice only works with men who are capable of leading, it’s not some sort of given that all men get to lead without qualification
- when I am talking about leadership, I mean leadership before marriage in order to improve a woman’s skills so she can serve God better, e.g. – improving apologetics or public speaking or teaching
- the goal of this is for the man and woman to experience how a man leads before the marriage, so that there are no surprises after the wedding
- leadership to me is the same as leadership in the corporate world, it means providing a vision, building consensus, enabling others to do their best, and motivating them with rewards and/or recognition
- examples of me leading a woman are: leading her to complete her undergraduate degree, leading her to start a masters, leading her to pay off her debts, leading her to teach in church, leading her to give lectures on apologetics issues, etc.