Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Thoughts; Two Occasions to Celebrate

Yesterday was Wife’s birthday. We’re celebrating tonight. Her parents are in town and I know they will enjoy being with their daughter celebrating her birthday. We took a trip to Atlanta with them yesterday to attend a memorial service for one of their friends who recently died.

Anyway, I’m grilling some stuff and will bake some potatoes. Older Son and his girlfriend are bringing asparagus and a salad and I ordered a birthday cake from a bakery. The goal is for Wife to have to do as little as possible. Due to her superior culinary and hospitality skills, family meals and celebrations are usually her game. (And if my sweet daughter is reading this, well Sweetie, we are just missing you so much . . . )

This Wednesday is our 26th anniversary. We got married just four days after Wife’s birthday so it’s a double whammy. We rarely give each other anniversary gifts, usually just agreeing to either (a) call some recent purchase our anniversary gift; (b) go out for dinner; (c) say, “Happy Anniversary” to each other; or (d) some combination thereof. With all we’ve had done to our house lately, the mirror in the entry hall, which Wife had technically had “on loan,” will be our anniversary gift to each other. I’m hoping that, with that, we can pronounce the renovation officially “done.”

I just re-read that last sentence and that’s actually funny. We’ll never be done. We’re out of money for this project, so we have limitations. But our house, built in the mid 1980s, will continue to require “tweaking” as long as we’re in it.


It is almost unfathomable to me that we have been married 26 years. That’s half of my life.

I have written a few other times about marriage. I am very fortunate to have a very happy one. There are many theories on what makes a marriage successful. I hear a lot of people say, “It takes hard work,” and I guess that’s right, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that I was working too hard to be – or stay – married. But I know it’s not my charming personality that keeps this institution going.


Many of my fellow Christians believe that the husband is ordained by God to be head of the household and the wife is supposed to submit to her husband in all things. There are entire books and studies on this. There are some people I really respect who believe this. I respect their right to believe this and believe that they should not be criticized for this belief. For those who subscribe to this belief, it does not in any way mean that husband and wife are not equal; they just have different roles. It comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 5.

I’ve pondered this a great deal over the life of my marriage. I have read Ephesians 5, as well as other passages in the Bible dealing with marriage, many times, and I just don’t reach the conclusion that I have authority over my wife. Paul says husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loves the church,” which is an incredibly high standard, one I take quite seriously.

I don’t, however, see the way Christ loves the church to be an authoritative type of love but, rather, a sacrificial and irresistible type of love, the kind of love where one would lay down one’s life, which is exactly what Christ did. And I would do it for my wife in a heartbeat.

There is a verse in Ephesians 5 that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” but the one right before that says, “Submit to one another.” To me, as Christians, we should all be deferring and submitting to each other, putting others’ interests ahead of our own. The way I read it, Paul uses a wife’s submission to her husband as an example, but this doesn’t mean that submission is not mutual.

Now, that is not to say that there are not times when Wife submits to a decision I make. We decided when we started having children that I would be the main provider for the family. It took a while to get there because, when our first child was born, Wife made more money than I did. But we eventually reached that point and we both agreed on it. Wife has worked most of our marriage but since we have had children there have been times when she did not work, and most of the time she has worked part-time rather than full time.

In 1997 the company I was working for proposed that I move from Little Rock to Nashville. I thought it would be a good move. Wife thought the job opportunity was good but she did not – in any way, shape or form -- want to move. But because we had jointly decided that I would be primary breadwinner and this looked to be the best thing for me at the time, she submitted and deferred to my decision. I didn’t stomp my foot and demand it but I told her why I thought it was the best thing, and she ultimately agreed. If she had objected, I would have found another job.

As it turned out, it ended up being a lousy job long-term. The company went bankrupt the week after we moved here and six months later they let me go.

And what did Wife do?

Did she say, “I told you so?” Did she insist we move back to Little Rock since we had not even bought a house here and still owned one there? Did she roll her eyes and say, “So what do have up your sleeve now, Big Boy?”

None of the above.

She loved me in an incredible way, encouraged me and prayed for me. She assured me we would be fine (and she was right). She never once said, “This is what I get for listening to you.” Not only did Wife submit to me, but when the result was seemingly not a good one, she didn’t throw it up in my face. Now that’s what I call biblical submission.


There are times, however, when I believe I’m the one that should be doing the submitting. I’ll give you a recent example.

As I’ve written recently, Younger Son drove himself to camp this summer. Because of this, I saw no reason for us to go for the camp closing.

Wife disagreed. She thought it was important that we be there and see him in his role as “chief” and hear the little talk he would make to the campers. I told Wife that would be a long way to drive for a very short little ceremony and I didn’t think we should go. I felt pretty strongly about it too.

Wife never became angry or upset with me but simply stated that she felt it was important enough that she would be going. I was welcome to go with her but, if I chose not to go, she would go alone. I knew in my heart, however, that she wanted me to go with her.

I went. And you know what? I’m glad I went. I told Wife so. We saw Younger Son in a light in which we had never seen him. He spoke eloquently. We saw parents of young boys thank him for investing in the lives of their sons and we saw him respond to those parents with poise and politeness beyond his years. It was extremely meaningful to me.

Had I not submitted to Wife in this regard, I would have missed that. And if she subscribed to the belief that my word is final, she would have also missed it. And we would have missed a lot.


So I’m a firm believer in mutual submission.

In reality, Wife and I really don’t concern ourselves too much about it. We love each other and we both try to consider the feelings of the other at all times. We’re not perfect so, obviously, it doesn’t always work.

We’re also not hesitant to say, “I’m sorry” when that is indicated. I probably end up needing to say that much more often than Wife.

So Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to my soulmate. The best is yet to come.


Bob Barbanes said...

Congratulations to you both! And happy birthday to "Wife." ...And speaking of which, since we do know that you call yourself "Bob," can we address her as something other than "wife?" I mean, she must have a first name, eh?

As far as husbands being the head of the household and the wives submitting to them...I think some people read much too much into the Bible. Your interpretation seems like a logical and workable one to me. As it should be.

Nice post!

Bob said...

Thanks Bob. When I started this blog I thought I should protect the identities of those of whom I write . . . but since you asked, my lovely wife of 26 years has the lovely name of Susan. Certainly she deserves to be named and I'm glad you asked.

Pencil Writer said...

May I wish Susan and wonderful birthday and both of you a wonderful anniversary.

As you have described your marriage and the gospel principles upon which it is based, I applaud you both. I think you've got it wonderfully figured it out. I expect that you with both continue to have a great marriage that grows with time to something even more wonderful that it currently it.

May God continue to bless and keep you both.

Pencil Writer said...

Take 2: May I wish Susan A wonderful birthday.

Kelly said...

A wonderful post, Bob!

Tell Susan happy birthday from me, and I wish you both a happy anniversary.

Debby said...

I loved this Bob. Tim is a PK. In his family, the man is the boss. Period. Even when the man is unkind, or wrong, or whatever... Tim is a quiet guy, but if he feels very strongly about something, I take a deep breath and go along with it. He is a Godly man, and I can trust that whatever he is considering, he has prayed about. The nice thing is that when I feel strongly about something, well, he takes the same stance. We have a nice partnership, one that his family doesn't necessarily understand, but one that works perfectly for us.

Debby said...

Oh, phooey! I forgot to say Happy Birthday, Susan and happy anniversary, Bob and Susan.

Pam said...

Absolutely a wonderful post!!!! Happy Birthday, Susan and happy anniversary to you both!!!

You and Debbie have both written family-related posts in the last few days that have left me smiling and with a warm heart! :)

Hal Johnson said...

Happy birthday to Susan and a happy anniversary to you both. I loved this post, Bob.

Steve H. said...

Great commentary on marriage Bob. I think when a person feels "valued" then submission becomes a lot easier to do :)