As though Christ-likeness in itself isn’t worth the effort, no matter what the cost, most men I begin counseling or discipling want dramatic evidence that the results will be in keeping with their efforts. The business world has taught us that results count. The more quickly you can achieve change, the better the approach must be.
Yet for all men I disciple, change comes slowly – and that’s true for me as well. After all, we are creatures of habit, of ingrained unChrist-like attitudes learned through years of repeating the same natural-to-man thoughts and actions.
- Becoming Christ-like is more demanding than we can imagine. Since the efforts required to illustrate Christ-likeness in your marriage will be greater than you may currently anticipate, are you willing to pay the price?
Add the skepticism of wives into the mix and you have double pressure for quick changes. Usually when I start working with a man, helping him understand himself and what God desires of him, he will begin to implement some of what he is learning. Yet it’s not unusual for a wife to say to herself (or her husband), “It’ll never last. He’ll revert to his old self. He’s just on another crusade. He’s been on so many crusades, so is this the three-month crusade or the six-month crusade? So he’s made a few changes. I’m still not impressed. For fifteen years he’s been a turkey, and I can still hear the gobbler in him.”
As in most marriages, this wife is responding to her husband’s past character. He can say to her, “That’s not right. You should trust me!” And her response will likely be, “I’m sorry. I still don’t trust you. You’ve blown it too many times.”
- If you are experiencing dissatisfaction in your marriage, doesn’t it seem realistic that your wife is also experiencing dissatisfaction?
- Doesn’t it also seem realistic that she would demonstrate some form of reaction to you?
Why this skepticism when the husband is trying so hard to effect change? It’s because the following scenario has happened too often.
Let’s say that after three months of one-on-one interaction with me, the husband begins to change. His wife sees the changes, but she senses they are coming out of his head, not his heart. So she says something like, “You haven’t changed.” And he says, “Don’t tell me I haven’t changed! I never used to do laundry before! I never used to clean up the bathroom before! I never helped you in the kitchen!”
But her response remains, “I’m not impressed.” So he reacts, “This is what I get for all my efforts?” She likely responds, “See, your attitude is proof that it only got into your head, not your heart.” And he reacts, “Hang it on your ear. If that’s what I get after three months of trying to be Christ-like, I’m not going to try anymore.”
There is her proof that she was right – his motive was to impress her or get her off his back, not that he wanted to change his whole life. It’s only in his head, not in his heart.
- From the example above, can you determine why those things the husband did from his “head” did not illustrate a true change of perspective within his heart? (NOTE: his attitudes would prove the difference.)
I help the husband who is in a discipling relationship to see that the wife’s skepticism is healthy and God-given. How else would he discover his wrong motivation if not through his wife’s negative reaction?
The man whose spirit responds in a Christ-like manner to this healthy skepticism from his wife, who hangs in there for the long term, will, I guarantee you, convince his wife. Later in the book I’ll complete the “Timeline of Change,” the pattern I see repeated again and again as men get serious about becoming Christ-like.
“Hold it,” you may be saying. “You don’t know my wife. I have moved heaven and earth to keep our love alive, and it didn’t work. Why should your approach work? It’s put up or shut up time.”
- Should a man accept his wife’s skepticism as a valid indicator of how his past character has affected her?
- Can you cite examples of where your wife is skeptical of you?