Challenges, For Men, Leadership, Love

The Polar Vortex, Generous Love, and Biblical Manhood

We, like most of the country, have been freezing our tails off lately. Apparently there’s a polar vortex (among other things) blasting across North America. We’re getting a taste of the arctic, and it tastes like chattering teeth. Though I’ve not particularly enjoyed the cold, it did teach me something about marriage and biblical manhood.

The Thermostat Conundrum

This is an extremely serious issue all married couples face: setting the thermostat. She likes a toasty 72 degrees, he likes 67. She cranks it up when he’s not looking, he programs it to the most economical mode possible. We tweak and adjust, bicker and complain, all while trying to find that perfect balance of hot & cold…

First-world problems indeed.

Lasting marriage requires hard work but few tasks reap a finer reward.

Hard work indeed…

If you’re unfamiliar with this problem, let us be the example. If the temperature feels great to me, I can bet that Selena is cold. If I feel hot, and I’m about to break a sweat, there’s a 99.9% chance that Selena feels perfect.

Rare are the times we’ve both felt comfortable with the temperature without her layering up or me dressing down. (No, I’m not too proud to watch a movie at home in a t-shirt and boxer shorts.)

Something, someone, needs to give so the other can be comfortable. Someone needs to forego their own comfort for the comfort of the other.

Oh, the implications this has for marriage…

Giving means taking one for the team.

The best times to show true love are when it isn't easy and it requires personal sacrifice.

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Marriage is all about compromise and sacrificial love. It’s about giving way for the benefit of the other. That’s love.

Sometimes you have to forego your own comfort for the sake of your spouse. The “temperature adjustment” needed may be learning their love language, compromising on a negotiable decision, or extending grace when it’s not easy. Uncomfortable love is perhaps the most potent kind.

As always, Jesus sets the example. He forewent his own comfort so we could be called righteous. He paid the price for our sin so we don’t have to (we can’t). Paul instructs us to love each other mutually as Christ loves the church. (Ephesians 5)

Sacrificial love must be mutual in marriage, but here’s the kicker: I believe it should start with the husband.

Let me explain.

Loving through serving, serving through giving

A sure sign of a man's strength is how gently he loves his wife.

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Biblical manhood is a nuanced topic. It’s complex, not because of what the Bible says, but because of the cultural backdrop upon which it’s overlaid. Words like “leadership”, “respect”, and “submission” grate on many of us because of the negative examples we’ve seen in our lives.

For that reason, let me be clear: mean, hurtful, overbearing, and harsh male leadership are not aspects of biblical manhood. Husbands who lead that way are deeply insecure and lack full understanding of how they are called to lead like Christ.

As a husband I’m called to leadership, service, and Christ-like headship of our family. This call is clear throughout scripture, and it’s a beautiful design. Men are called to lead their wives sacrificially, and with love.

With love.

Let me repeat: with love.

If I genuinely believe I’m called to lead my family with love and I actually practice it, I’m gladly the first to sacrifice when necessary. Note that I used the word if… 

I’ve only started learning the depth of this concept recently.

Good choices can be chosen poorly

A husband and wife may disagree on many things but they must agree on this: to never, ever give up.

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Here’s a quick & dirty example for clarity:

If you (husband) feel convicted to steward your finances better and get rid of some debt (a good goal indeed), and doing so means you’ll need to live more frugally. You decide to cut some expenses. Good decision.

As a husband, you wouldn’t be wise to trim your mortgage/rent expense from the budget entirely and move your family into a cardboard box so you can pay off your debt more quickly. Your family would resent your leadership, even though it’s because of your conviction and the “greater good”. That would be terrible execution of a great decision.

It would be much wiser to prioritize the needs of your family first, trim and cut as much as possible, and pay off the debt at a reasonable pace. You can lead lovingly, with patience and wisdom, toward a good goal.

In this extreme example it’s obvious, but the principle applies to subtle scenarios as well. (Ex. If serving in church causes you to neglect your family, that’s poor leadership.)

The noblest tasks a man can do are serving God and serving his wife.

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Give first, lead best

There are cases where you and your spouse disagree on two good options. In those cases one spouse has the opportunity to be flexible––to give in.

This is the precise point where husbands have a chance to lead best by giving first.

Since Christ has been the instigator of loving me sacrificially, I can gladly do the same for his daughter who he’s generously given to me for a wife.

(Caveat: Yes, wives, you can love in the same way, but here I’m simply challenging the guys… )

Indeed, husbands are the not only givers in a marriage; but in the event of an impasse, he has the awesome responsibility to be the first one to give generously. And in that sort of loving generosity, he leads well––he serves well, like Christ served the church. (See Philippians 2:6, Mark 10:45, Matt 20:28)

I will spend more time discussing biblical manhood in more posts (and for sure, our eventual book), but for now we’ve scratched the surface.

My hope for husbands

Husbands, may we lead our families by giving of ourselves generously and willingly. Whenever we’re able, may we give first. May we be emptied out for the sake of showing Christ-like love to those he’s entrusted into our care.

It’s my hope that married men everywhere learn the depth of their calling toward biblical manhood through Christ-like love. It’s a journey I’m fully immersed in and far from completing.

For now, I’ll gladly crank up the thermostat whenever Selena’s feeling a bit chilly.

Question: What is one way you’ve been the first to give in your marriage? How did it affect your relationship?

Please leave your response in the comments below.

Header image by Jeff Marsh.

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  • Kevin Fisher

    This was great, thanks Ryan. For me I’m just learning this concept of “give first”. I completely agree, the thermostat is not a fight worth fighting men. Let your woman warm up, she’ll be warmer to you. I’m stealing your quote Ryan, thanks! “Since Christ has been the instigator of loving me sacrificially, I can gladly do the same for his daughter who he’s generously given to me for a wife.” !

  • Annette Holbrook

    In the 13 years we’ve been together, I do not recall a single time my husband has apologized first. I am the first to apologize in our relationship… I remember reading (in Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl, I think) that women are created to be softer, more pliable. I usually pray about whatever I’m angry about or we’re disagreeing about and this passage comes to mind. God created me to be a very tender-hearted person for a reason. Almost immediately, I feel my heart start to soften. I’ll go and ask my husband’s forgiveness and if/when he’s been wrong in some way, he’ll ask mine. I’ve come to accept the fact that this is a gift I give to our marriage and myself.

  • Becky R

    Wow this was great. I just read this post for the first time this evening, I read them all maybe not the same day, but I do read them all:) & its always what I need to hear. thank you. Please pray for my husband Isaac & our marriage he is struggling with alcohol addiction & as I cling on to the Lord for both our sakes we can greatly use ur prayer. Thank you very much for all the encouraging post that I know are only lived by experience & sharing with the world maythe Lord bless your marriage as I continue to seek my refuge in strength in my Savior.:)