A horrible truth dawned upon me recently.
No, the truth didn’t dawn. It sprang.
And I’m still struggling in its teeth.
You know this thing called marriage? One man, one woman, one flesh, for life? The husband in charge, as ordained by God, the wife submitted to his authority?
I understand this. It makes sense. My husband and I are a team, but someone has to lead. I’d rather it be he than me, because I certainly don’t want to shoulder his responsibilities or his accountability to God.
Except. . . I didn’t understand it. Not like I should have.
Here’s the truth that will not let me go: I do not get to define respect. That’s my husband’s job.
If I do and say things that feel disrespectful to him, then I have been disrespectful, even if it feels harmless and inconsequential to me. He is allowed to make the respect call.
I don’t know why I haven’t seen my inconsistency before. I know that parents, not children, define what is respectful and what is not. God, not humans, decides what is obedience and what is not. The courts, not criminals, declare what is law-abiding and what is not.
With authority comes the power to decide when that authority is being challenged.
I sometimes live as if a wife is the exception to this rule. When my husband says it feels like I’m challenging his decision, I brush it off and say I didn’t mean it that way at all. When my actions make him think his opinion didn’t matter, I claim he’s not being understanding enough.
I’ve been wrong.
He is allowed to decide when he feels respected and when he does not. This doesn’t suit me. I’d rather that my husband be understanding and conciliatory: Of course you didn’t mean to be disrespectful, my dear. I misunderstood you. Forgive me.
On second thought—no. I’d rather my husband be strong than weak, even if he stomps on my opinions.
To live under his definition of respect means I have to consider my actions and words from his perspective. I have to accept the truth that sometimes, even when I mean well, I am flat-out wrong.
This still doesn’t suit me.
But why do I fight it? He is a good man, better than I deserve, and he is no tyrant. He loves me, a fact I still struggle to believe. Besides, in marriage (and in everything else), God’s way works better than any other way, every time.
The unfortunate truth about respect is that I’ve been wrong about it far too long. I’ve been choosing to respect him according to my standards instead of his. But it is God’s standard that truly matters, and God who receives the glory when a husband and a wife live beautifully together. I want my husband not only to hear that I respect him, but also to feel it, to know it, and to never doubt it.