Encouraging Your Husband to LeadEncouraging Your Husband to Lead
Leslie Basham: Erin Davis says in a lot of marriages if wives would step back and stop trying to lead, their husbands would become better leaders.
Erin Davis: When I realized I wanted to be stronger so I need to be softer, that really turned things on its head. That’s so counter-cultural.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, May 24.
When your husband is doing something you don’t like, how can you most respectfully get him to stop? How can you encourage him to be more of a godly leader? What if you have a strong personality? Can God use that personality for His glory? Today we’ll hear a group of wives talk about this with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We’ll hear from Vicki Rose, Kim Wagner, and Erin Davis. Now, here’s Nancy.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Erin, do you remember the first time or one of the first times in your marriage that the fierceness in you came out in some sort of conflict with Jason? You’re married to a youth pastor.
Erin: Immediately after I said, “I do.” And then the fierceness came out. (laughter)
Kim Wagner: Did that not show up when you were dating?
Erin: Oh, yes, whenever we were dating. Yes.
Kim: So he wasn’t surprised.
Erin: No, he knew what he was in for. I’m sure he did. I always say there’s Type A and Type Double A. I’m Type Double A, and some days Type Triple A. I mean, I’m fierce. And the Lord has honed that into a soft warrior, but it took a lot of years.
In our early years of marriage, being married to a youth pastor I was totally disappointed in what that life was like. I had no idea.
Nancy: You were disappointed?
Erin: Oh yes. I’d overly romanticized it. When life in ministry came at me like a freight train . . . He got a lot of blame for a lot of years. I was just disappointed in him, in marriage, in ministry and all of that stuff, and I had no trouble telling him.
Nancy: How did you express that?
Erin: Well, recently, I’ve been memorizing James. There’s that part in James that says that if a man does not bridle his tongue, his faith is useless. So I bravely asked the Lord, “In what areas am I not bridling my tongue because I don’t want to have a useless faith.” And I felt the Lord say to my spirit, “It’s complaining to and about your husband.” And I thought, That ain’t it! (laughter) And so I didn’t worry much about it.
But we recently had a major move. I found in a box twelve year's worth of letters that I’d written to Jason. I’m a writer, so I’d written the man a lot. They all had this undercurrent, “I love you so much, but if you would just change this about you . . .”
Nancy: You wrote him letters saying this?
Erin: Very sweetly. “If you were just a better communicator . . . If you just were more affectionate . . . If you could just give me more time . . . If you could just express yourself better . . . but I love you. Heart. Erin.”
Suddenly I had the evidence there in writing that our whole relationship I’d complained to and about him, very sweetly. I wasn’t bridling my tongue, and it was making my religion rather useless.
Kim: Now when you saw that, did you go to him?
Erin: Oh, yes.
Kim: How did that conversation go? Can you share it?
Erin: (crying) "I’m so sorry. I’ve been complaining about you.”
He said, “I forgive you baby.” That was it. (laughter) Because he’s a classic man of few words, you know?
I had the opportunity then to be like, “So I would like us to talk about this. I’m open to start a conversation.”
But no, “I forgive you baby. I forgive you baby.”
Kim: Well, at least he did that.
Erin: He did.
Vicki Rose: It’s so great at your age. Okay, so I’m here, the oldest one on the stage, and I’m just getting that, now. It’s so great to be free of complaining.
Nancy: Yes, Vicki. The Lord’s been speaking to you about that.
Vicki: For so many years I kept thinking, Well, if my husband would just change that everything would be fine. I’m not a writer. I would sit down and talk, and he would check out of that conversation pretty rapidly. When I finally got it, I went to him and I washed his feet. He was so taken aback. But almost the same response, “Okay. I get it. Thank you. I forgive you.” And moved on.
I got married thinking my husband was the answer to my life and was going to fix everything that was wrong and find me happiness and heal my hurts. I complained about him to anyone who would listen.
Nancy: Now, you weren’t a believer at the time, nor was your husband.
Vicki: But even after being a believer I couched it in, “He’s not a believer enough. He’s not this enough. He’s not that enough.” Even after I knew the Lord.
Nancy: And you’ve seen, Vicki, the Lord doing some really fresh things in your marriage in the last two years.
Vicki: It started when Billy and I visited Revive Our Hearts, and you wanted to do some taping of us. I made a comment about my husband, and he said, “Gosh. While we’re taping, what you said hurt me.”
I was like, “Wow!” I had said something like, “Because of you I walk more closely with God.” In other words, I was saying to him, “You make my life so hard that I need to be on my knees.” (laughter)
Nancy: For the whole world to hear.
Vicki: Right. Right. And he looked at me and said, “You just said that?”
Nancy: I was there when this happened. There was this little exchange between them, and I thought, Would you like me to just step out of the room while you figure this out? (laughter)
Vicki: And very graciously you said, “Why don’t we try that again?” I rephrased it. But I left here thinking, That is in my heart, so I need to look at that. I started to really repent of my attitudes toward my husband of being a fierce woman. I mean, I read the book, and you were in my head as well. Type A, New Yorker, proud of it, that’s how I was meant to be. Just this last year really repenting of those qualities in myself that are not pleasing to the Lord at all and that are not of Him.
I memorized Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth but only what is helpful.” I prayed it every morning. I still pray it, “Lord, help me to say words that will bless my husband.” So I worked my way through this Bible study, and I really found freedom from this critical spirit that I had toward my husband. I was blind to it before that. I was miserable, but I was also making him miserable. I set a terrible example for my children.
After coming to this point of going to him asking for forgiveness, I started to live differently. I started to not just choose gratitude, but to say, “Okay, I am not allowed to complain again about anything. Not the weather. Not what my husband’s tie looks like. Nothing. I’m going to wake up in the morning. "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." "I will give thanks in all circumstances." I just made a decision to start doing that, and it has transformed my marriage, my life, my daily. I wake up, and I’m a happy girl now.
Nancy: And how’s your husband?
Vicki: He’s a happy guy. (laughter) We just came back from a conference last week. A young couple in sports, in football, were teaching some love and respect material. They had an acrostic on one side of the page, honor: so for the wives to honor their husbands. And on the other side of the page said, agape: for husbands to love their wives. So we walk around now saying this to each other. He says: “I agape you.” And I’m walking around saying, “I honor you.”
What’s happened is that God has really changed my heart, not just my outward words. But I have a new respect and honor. I honor. I do honor my husband, and am just kind of an awe about him, and that comes from the Lord. I believe God blesses when we try to do what Scripture says. He definitely blesses it and gives us the ability, the power to do it, because it’s not me.
Kim: Well, it’s His grace when we humble ourselves before Him and cry out, “I need Your help. I can’t be this in myself. I’m a destructive fierce woman. I want to live for myself. I want to be mean. I want to make him feel like an idiot, in myself. But when I see the ugliness of that through the mirror of God’s Word and see the beauty of Christ, that’s really what I want. And so I cry out for help from God, which is asking for His grace. And that’s the power to live out the Word. It’s not in myself.
Vicki: Right. But I also see the destructiveness in how it deflated my husband and at the end of the day, who was going to encourage him if it’s not his wife, me.
Kim: Yes, the one who knows him best. That’s who he wants to hear that admiration, affirmation coming from.
Nancy: Kim, I heard a radio interview the other day where your husband was asked to talk about your book, Fierce Women. Normally you’re the one asked to talk about it. But he was asked to be on one of the Moody radio programs. I listened to that interview. He responded to those questions about how your fierceness and ways that you had been critical and trying to change him, how that had affected him as a husband. He was so sweet and gentle in the way he said it. He was quick to say that God’s changed you, and God’s changed your marriage. But he really opened up about how he became afraid to say anything. He lost confidence.
But what interested me . . . It was a call-in program, and they opened the phones. Men started calling in. I’m actually a little surprised that some of these men weren’t afraid that their wives would hear them.
Erin: Disguising their voices.
Nancy: On this national radio program. But it was really eye opening to me as a woman and had to be for wives as well, to be hearing men saying, “This is how I feel when my wife is constantly critical, constantly talking, constantly badgering, constantly putting down, constantly demeaning.” One man said, “My wife is just loud. She’s just so loud.” You could tell he was really exercised over this. But he said, “When I try to talk to her about this she just gets loud.”
Kim: And he also said, “I don’t want to go home. I dread going home at the end of the day.”
Nancy: It made me really sad to think not just in the context of marriage but in the context of mixed male and female relationships in general how we as women can make men, what does Proverbs say, want to go live on the roof, want to be isolated, want to get out of the house. It’s a sad thing. But we need to realize the power of our words, of our spirit. Each of you three are strong women. I’m a strong woman in our workplace as a single woman. I think we’ve all seen the way that our words can just . . .
Vicki: . . . build up or break down.
Erin: I think we get the equation wrong. We think, If we’re strong women and we come at them, then they will be strong men back at us. It will go like this. But I think strong women make soft men, but soft women make strong men. They rise up when we are soft towards them, then they are strengthened. But when we come at them hard, they just shrink from that because we have great men. He’s not going to come back at me if I’m yelling at him or complaining at him. He’s just going to shrink further and further away from me. When I realize I want him to be stronger so I need to be softer, that really turned things on it’s head. That’s so counter-cultural. You don’t hear that anywhere.
Nancy: So what does that look like when you are the more outgoing, you are the Type A, and he’s more reserved? Does that mean you both have to have a personality transplant? How do you live that out?
Erin: I think primarily for me, it means, just because I think it doesn’t mean I have to say it. I can still think it. I just don’t have to say it. My personality is still intact, and when I do talk, I still sound like me. But he is free to pick that parking spot which I would not have picked and there was the other one just closer. But I don’t have to say it.
He married a strong woman, and I think if I suddenly became this mild-mannered version of myself, that that would not be attractive to him either. But for him, especially, the best way for him to experience love from me is for me to compliment him in front of others. So for all those years of me subtly rolling my eyes in front of others or criticizing him in front of others was incredibly hurtful to him. So it just requires me to be a better Erin, a more under-the-Spirit’s-control Erin, not a totally different Erin.
Kim: That’s what LeRoy has said. He’s said, “I’m glad I married a strong woman.”
Nancy: He knew you were feisty before he married you.
Kim: Yes. That’s what attracted him. He was attracted to me because of that. But to fuel that fierceness, that beautiful fierceness, those strengths into fulfilling the role of helping him to be all that God wants him to be.
Erin: It’s really not about changing your relationship with your husband as much as changing your relationship with the Lord. Most of the time it’s misplaced expectations. I’m expecting you to satisfy. I’m expecting you to scratch that itch. I’m expecting you to have conversations with me. I’m expecting you to fulfill me. And he can’t. He gets all of our anger because of that. It’s really not about changing your relationship with him as much as it is about changing your relationship with the Lord.
And I remember several years ago I got like, “Okay, I need to talk to my husband less.” And so I said to the Lord, “But I still have all these words. And what am I supposed to do with all these words?” I remember the Lord saying to my heart, “Use them for Me.” Oh. The Lord wanted to have all those excess words that my husband couldn’t handle. Like I could just direct those to Him.
It was a real shift in my prayer life to begin talking to the Lord all day so when Jason got home at five o’clock I wasn’t like “Blah, Blah, Blah!” Because I had been talking. So it’s really more about a shift in your relationship with the Lord as much as it is about changing your relationship with your man.
Nancy: I know for a lot of women, and in every marriage, probably, but some women a lot in their marriage. There are issues in their husband’s lives that are really concerning. This woman is thinking, this wife is thinking, This is not right.
I’m looking at Colossians 3 here and wondering how this gets applied in the context of marriage. Let me read a couple of verses here. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (vv. 12–14)
Now, I’m looking at those. This is the Word of God, so we honor it. But in a marriage . . .
Kim: You balance that with Galatians 6:1–2. So maybe you want to read that as well.
Nancy: Why don’t you tell us about it?
Kim: Well, Galatians 6:1–2 is instructions to all believers that if you see your brother caught in sin, so pornography? That’s sin. Rude behavior, certain rude behaviors can be sin. You come alongside your brother. In gentleness you speak the truth. In the back of the book, I give ladies just some guidelines for confrontation, when confrontation is necessary.
It’s always with this in Colossians 3 being at the root and base of it. You’re going with a heart of compassion. You’re going with love and forbearance, but you’re coming alongside your brother in Christ. He may be an unbeliever, but you’re coming alongside speaking truth in love because you care about that person. It’s not to fix things more to your liking. But you care about their condition before a holy God.
Nancy: So when it says in Colossians 3, bearing with one another. Does that or does that not mean that you put up with your husband’s pornographic habit?
Kim: You don’t put up with sin. But you put up with him slurping his coffee in the morning without getting on to him or treating him like a child.
Erin: Or about where he puts his laundry. Which category does that fall into? (laugher)
Nancy: Might have an issue, Erin?
Erin: I’m asking for a friend!
Kim: Tell your friend that you can graciously have a conversation about it, but there’s a lot of things we can let go.
Erin: I will tell her.
Vicki: Get a laundry basket and put it right there. He can’t miss that.
Erin: I’ll tell her.
Vicki: Yes, tell your friend. But I think one of the keys, and you say this in your book, “Clothe yourselves with kindness, compassion and humility.” Well, I have none of those characteristics, so I pray. I beg God for those because in my flesh I am not any of those. Before I go speak to my husband about something, I pray that; that I will be like that and that I will be humble in approaching him. But also, “Lord, show me when to go talk to him. Show me when to do Galatians 6:1 and 2.”
Nancy: Show me if there’s a splinter in his eye that I’m trying to get out but there’s really a log in my own eye that I’m blind to.
Erin: You’ve got to be prayed up. I mean as soon as a sin is exposed and you go in there swinging and you haven’t prayed one bit about it, you’re not ready. If you’ve been nailing the man to the wall for fifteen years and acting like the laundry was a sin when there actually is sin to deal with and you’ve just been calling him out on everything left and right, then I don’t think that confrontation when it does matter is going to go well. Which is another good reason to zip those lips and understand what matters and what doesn’t matter.
But to answer your question, no, I don’t think you put up with his pornography addiction. There’s nothing scripturally to make us decide that. But I think . . .
Kim: Of his physically abusive behavior, I mean, we’re not called to do that in Scripture.
Erin: However, I have plenty of habitual sins, and he puts up with all of them. The water starts to get murky when we think, Well, your sin is worse than my sin, and I feel like I can call it out because it seems uglier to me than what’s in my own life. Marriage is two sinners walking together through life trying to figure it out. And so you know, there will be sin to deal with and that gives a great formula for how to deal with it and how not to deal with it in contrast.
Kim: And the key is really to walk together in humility.
Nancy: What about this whole thing of forgiveness. That’s in this passage, too, bearing with one another, forgiving one another. Do you forgive before you’ve talked about it? Do you forgive if he’s not seen it or acknowledged it? Maybe we’re not talking about huge sins here, but we’re talking about annoyances. What does that look like in the context of marriage, to be a forgiving person when there are issues that need to be addressed? Or that you think need to be addressed?
Kim: Well, it’s like I was saying a while ago. There’s a lot of things you can let go. The principle is that you go back to the cross yourself and recognize and remember, like Erin just said, that you have a lot of crummy sins.
Erin: We’re not talking about “forgive as your husband has forgiven you.” We’re talking about “forgive as Jesus has forgiven you.”
Kim: So you go back to the cross and you focus on that and the fact that wow what Christ has forgiven me for—what a holy God has forgiven me for. And who am I not to walk in forgiveness toward my husband.
Erin: Forgiveness is never contingient on the other person asking for forgiveness, deserving forgiveness, or stopping the forgiveable behavior. So I don’t think you have to talk to him about it. I don’t think he has to concede. I don’t think you have to have a lengthy conversation in order to forgive them.
Nancy: You don’t have to write them a letter?
Erin: You don’t have to. But you can. (laughter) Or many, many, many, many, many, many letters. It’s not about him deserving my forgiveness. It's about me not deserving Christ’s forgiveness.
Kim: Yes. That’s it.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with three wives, Vicki Rose, Kim Wagner, and Erin Davis. They’ve been talking about a wide range of practical issues that wives face. But at the heart of it, this has been a discussion about putting Christ at the center of your life.
You hear practical discussions like this thanks to listeners who make Revive Our Hearts possible. These listeners believe in what the Lord’s doing through the ministry and want to spread practical and biblical counsel to other women who need to hear it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Revive Our Hearts this month. May marks the end of our fiscal year. It’s a time when we crunch all the numbers for one twelve-month period and set the budgets for the next. Our listeners know what an important time this is and have been contributing to a goal of $350,000 in donations for the month.
When you support the ministry this month, we’ll say thanks by sending the CD Hidden in My Heart, Vol. 2. It’s a set of Scripture passages set to soothing music.
Song from CD:
Looking out into the night sky,
A million star shining down,
And I can see how you feel so small.
Ask for Hidden in My Heart when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Next week Nancy teaches on a topic all of us need to hear: "Enduring Life’s Hardships." Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
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