Keeping Your Marriage Vows

Sept. 24, 2010 Crawford and Karen Loritts

Session Transcript

Crawford Loritts: A number of years ago, I was visiting a friend of mine who has a big, gorgeous, lovely home outside Washington, D.C. He was just a great guy, and he and his wife had just purchased this lovely piece of property. So he was showing me around. He has this big, beautiful golden retriever, too. So here we are, and he’s showing me around the property.

It’s several acres and a lovely home, just gorgeous, but I noticed there wasn’t any fence anywhere around the property. It sits back a little bit, but it’s up against a very busy thoroughfare. So we were walking around, and the dog is following us.

When we get ready to go into the house, I noticed that the dog stays out. I said, “George, aren't you afraid the dog will run off and get out in the street or that something’s going to happen?’

He sort of smiled at me, and he whistled and called the dog. The dog ran up, and he said, “Crawford, I want you to look at something.”

On the collar was this little imperceptible, tiny receiver. He said, “All around here we have something called a hidden fence, and when the dog gets close to the hidden fence, he hears a sound that you and I can't hear, and it's irritating and he backs away.”

In marriage, we need to remember that there is a hidden fence that surrounds the exclusive relationship that we have established and every once in a while we need to go back and rediscover and remind ourselves about that hidden fence.

Karen and I could have talked about an awful lot of things related to marriage today, but as we thought about this weekend I said, “Sweetheart, why don't we just go back to some very basic things that we typically under pressure, with the stress, struggle, and strain of life, the hassles of life, the problems in life, the bad choices that we even make as adults that affect our relationships, the intrusions in our relationship.

Why don't we go all the way back and remind all of us what is a part of that hidden fence? The first thing is a vision. We need to be reminded of the vision for marriage. What does that look like? All the way back in Genesis 2 . . . By the way, Bible scholars say when you're confused about something or the purpose of something, the very first thing to do is go back when it was first mentioned. It is called the law of first mention.

When you want to know the reason or the purpose for marriage, you go back all the way to the beginning and look at the law of first mention. Here is a law, the law of first mention, the vision for marriage, why marriage, and what it looks like, and what it is launched with is outlined here in Genesis 2:24.

God brings Eve to Adam. She was created for him. And God said these things: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast,” or the old King James version, “cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” The vision for marriage is wrapped up in those three statements: leaving, cleaving, and the becoming of one flesh.

Leaving has to do with the privacy of the relationship. Do you know what I mean by that? It has to do with the fact that nobody is in charge of your marriage except you and your husband. Nobody is to interfere with the relationship. You and your husband are in charge of the marriage.

Now please don't get upset with me but sometimes, just like I tell men, I’m going to tell you. Some of you are 40 years old, but you're still acting like a 16-year-old girl when it comes to your responsibility in marriage. We have to leave, leave home emotionally, leave home physically.

Now, in today's economy obviously there are times in which we need help. But to be married means that we have accepted the responsibility that we are now independently dependent upon God and going through life together with a marriage partner.

This is a word that I give to the parents of young people who are being married: “Take your hands off of them.” Leave. Leave. Leave. I tell folks all the time, “Stop making the huge mistake of inviting your parents into your business.” It's a big mistake, and the emotional co-dependency that's there. They are going to be very dead one day, and when they're dead, some of us will continue in our dysfunction. I'm serious about this. There is nothing worse than an adult who has been dependent upon their parents emotionally for their whole lives, and now they don't know what to do.

The vision is that we leave. Leave financially. Leave emotionally. The vision means that we cleave to one another. There is a new identity that is forged when you say, “I do.” It is not two hyper individuals who are enjoying sexual release and having kids and the dual income that's helping us to pay the bills and enjoy a lifestyle. That's the world's negotiated perspective and vision for marriage.

God's vision for marriage is that there is a new identity that's formed, and so you cleave. It is the idea of being bonded to one another. In a certain sense, Karen is me and I am Karen, and there is some intentionality about this. We don't turn on one another when there is a crisis, but we turn to each other and to God.

There is an intentional moving toward one another. That's the vision, and thirdly, the becoming of one flesh. Now, we typically give a one-dimensional perspective on that saying it's sexual intimacy. It is sexual intimacy, but it's deeper than that. It is not an unhealthy smothering of your mate, but rather it is the idea that I want Karen, because she is me, to be everything God wants her to be. It is a oneness that fuels each other, and that's the vision.

Now, what happened when you said, “I do”? What happened? What happened on May 22, 1971, when a 21-year-old dude and a 20-year-old young lady said, “I do”? What did we do?

Part of the problem in our culture is that we've allowed the culture to define what marriage is for us.

  • Biblical marriage is not an agreement between two parties.
  • Biblical marriage is not a contractual arrangement.
  • Biblical marriage is not a matter of having prenuptial agreements where you protect yourself.
  • Biblical marriage is anchored in the old, historic covenant ceremony.

The word for covenant in Hebrew is the word bariyth. It means “sacred, solemn, binding agreement.” I told each one of our children when they said that they were going to get married, when our son-in-laws of our daughters when they first came and asked me this, I would say this and it would scare the liver out of them. By the way, at that point fear is good. I would say to them, “Okay, you know, Rick, Charles, we love you, and I'll be proud for you to be my son-in-love,” and that kind of thing. But then I would say this to them: “I want you to look me in the eye, son. I want you to look me in the eye. What you are getting ready to do requires all of you and it is forever. Do you understand me? It's not about feelings. This is your life.”

I said that to my sons when they were telling me, “I’m going to ask Corey to marry me.” “I’m going to ask Brenda to marry me.” “I’m going to ask Lucritia to marry me.” I said, “Okay, okay, fellas, sit down here, like this, buddy. It is forever.”

The covenant ceremony rested upon eight things. I’m not going to go through all eight of them, but I would like to highlight a few of them. Whenever anybody entered into a sacred, solemn, binding agreement, they entered into bariyth.

Number one, there was the statement of the agreement . You knew exactly what you were getting into. You knew exactly what you were getting into. You were leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh in the case of marriage. But in the case of covenants, especially God when He established the Abrahamic covenant, He outlined what the vision is, what it looks like. You outline in a covenant what it looks like. This is what we're agreeing to: we're agreeing to leave, cleave, and become one flesh.

Second thing that they would do is they would slay an animal . It wasn't something that was inexpensive. They slayed the most expensive animal they had symbolizing that they're willing to sacrifice all in light of bariyth. In light of the sacred, solemn, binding agreement.

When two people say, “I do,” they say, “I'm excluding all other relationships at the heart level. No one ever will get to this place in my heart. I am excluding everything. I'm sacrificing my future. I’m sacrificing my intentions. This person is now the most important person in my life, period. My mother is not there; my daddy is not there; my siblings are not there. This person that I stand at this altar with, and I'm getting ready to say, ‘I do,’ go through bariyth, that person is the most important person in my life.”

The third thing they would do often would be to exchange belts . Now, belts don't mean much to us today. I wear a belt and trust me, it ain’t to keep my pants up. With my girth, I don't need no belt to keep my pants up. Okay? I wear one, you all do, too. You have all kinds of belts, and my wife does, too.

But back then, belts were very significant. You wore belts, particularly in the Old Testament, because often you had to tuck things in your belt. You want to take your garment, if you were running, and push it down in your belt. A belt was worn for support. So when they would exchange vows, the agreement, they would sacrifice something. Then they would give the belt, and that belt says, “I live to support you. I live to support you. There is never going to be a question as to whether or not I'm in your corner. You will never doubt who is always number one in my life. You will never doubt whether or not I have your back.” We have entered into sacred, solemn, binding agreement.”

Then often the last thing that they would do would be to exchange weapons. Interesting. They would exchange a sword or a spear. But what the exchange of weapons said was that, “Your enemies are now my enemies, and we are not each other's enemy.”Bariyth.

Did you know that the wedding ceremony is probably the last vestige of the ancient covenant ceremony? The vows, the exchange of the ring. Yes. “Until death do us part.” Yes. So even though our culture doesn't intend to call it that, it really is the last vestige of the old covenant ceremony.

And I think, ladies, you know, as we look at our marriage and you look at the troubles and the challenges. I'm not saying there is never any reason for divorce. I don't even want to go down that road. But what I am saying is this: When you said, “I do,” you didn't do that because you wanted nice dresses and a champagne reception and a great honeymoon. You entered into bariyth.

The third part of this hidden fence . . . The first is the vision, okay? Leave, cleave, become one flesh. That's what I'm all about, and that's what the marriage is all about. Secondly is to take a look at: What did I do? When you said, “I do,” you did. You entered into a sacred, solemn, binding agreement. But the third thing is to understand the relationship, to understand the biblical guidelines for the relationship.

Karen is going come up in a second and this is where she is really going to pour herself into this deal here, but I just want to take you to Ephesians 5. Here is where the apostle Paul says, “Okay, this is what, in essence, a distinctively Christian marriage should look like.”

He says in verse 22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as a church submits to Christ, so wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (verses 22-24, ESV).

I'll let Karen talk about the “s” word a little more than me, but I will say a couple things about submission:

You should never submit to your husbands in areas of sin . You should never submit to them if they're asking you to lie or if they're asking you to do harmful things. God never wants us in the name of submission to submit to sin.

Submission does not mean an admission of weakness . Submission has nothing to do with an admission of weakness. Submission has to do with the acknowledgement of headship, not an admission of weakness. My wife is far more gifted in many, many, many areas than I will ever be. She can do things on the back stroke that I'll struggle with. It is not an admission of weakness. It is an alignment issue. It is honoring the fact that my husband is the head of this household.

Thirdly, submission does not mean that your husband is always right. They could be as wrong as two left shoes.

Submission, number four, does not mean that you don't lovingly correct or challenge your husband. Karen does that to me all the time. If she feels like I'm wrong, typically this is what will happen. At this stage of the game, I’ve got to tell you something: I can't imagine anything that I would do if my wife was vehemently opposed to it. I just need to say that right now. After almost 40 years of marriage, I don't know of much that if she was that upset about it that I might say, “Hey, Leroy.” Experience ain’t always the best teacher, but if it's the only school a fool attends, I might want to step back a little bit.

But, having said that, she has said something like this to me in the past. We have gone at it about things that she's disagreed with me about, and this is what she'll say. “Well, honey, I just want to tell you, I think you're wrong, but I got your back. I'm going to submit to this, but I think you're wrong, and I'm going to go to God.” (Laughter)

Now, I've learned when women start praying, that's an unfair advantage. (Laughter) So I've been whooped a couple times by Jesus by being just full of my testosterone, shall I say? Uh-oh. I can't say that? Okay, so that's not what submission is.

The hardest job in this text, and I say it all the time. I'm not just being cute. It's a man's responsibility. As husbands, we're to love our wives as Christ loved the church. If the men were here, I'd say to them, “I don't know a woman in the world who would not respond to that type of leadership, as Jesus loved the church sacrificially and attentively, giving Himself up for her.”

So the vision is, in terms of the role, this part of that hidden fence, the relationship, a wife . . . a wife is to submit to her husband and not just be, you know, a pain, emasculating him because every time he turns around he feels challenged.

I just need to shoot straight with you. One of the biggest problems that men have in this culture is that they've been feminized. I didn't say homosexual. They've been feminized. Many have grown up in situations where their fathers were not involved in their lives or they were totally absent. They've grown up with strong, domineering women, and they have felt beaten down. Sometimes they’ve married women who were strong. Now, I’m not against strong women. I’m married to one of them. They married women who are strong, and he's trying to take leadership and in everything that he does, he's being cut off at his knees.

So I want to encourage you. The most powerful person in a man's life is his wife. Don't ever underestimate the power you have in terms of your response in your husband's life. Don't ever underestimate that. It’s unbelievable. You may have to lose some things and allow him to make some foolish decisions which may be wrong, granted, but that will reap a bumper crop in terms of the health of the relationship because he knows that you're not fighting him but you're with him.

Karen, you want to come?

Karen Loritts: Okay. Just before I just run through a couple of things, if you have a question, jot it down and just send it over to your right and Linda will collect it going down the aisle. If you have a really hot question for Crawford, put it on a piece of paper and bring it all the way down and Linda will collect them going down the aisle as I speak.

First, let me just read a couple of Scriptures, a couple of Scriptures from the Word:

“An excellent wife is a crown of her husband, but she who shames him is as rottenness to his bones” Proverbs 12:4.

“It is better to live in the corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” Proverbs 21:9.

“It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman” Proverbs 21:19.

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of the fools is deceit.”

Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

And Proverbs 19:14 says, “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

It is amazing that God would bring together two completely different people. Crawford comes from this nice little family that had a white picket fence and a mother that wore an apron and pearls every day and a dad who supported and worked for his family. He had two loving sisters, and he was the baby brother, the baby boy, his mother's pride and joy, the youngest. (Laughter)

And then God had this teenage woman who got pregnant by a sailor, a one night or couple-week stand, got pregnant, had me as a teenager, went on to have some other kids out of wedlock . . . all these babies, but she got saved. This baby got saved, met this man in Bible college, brown legs. (Laughter)

He just thought he was going to get married and live this happy life, and in me was, “I'm a woman. I don't need a man. My mother raised us.” I'm the oldest, the oldest girl. I'm the big sister. I run the show for my two little brothers. When my mom was working, I was running the show there in the ghetto of Philadelphia, but God had another plan.

He saved me. He softened my heart and brought this handsome man into my life. There were some earlier, hurtful days in the beginning because He was trying to tell me to submit. Submit? That is ancient. (Laughter) But God has a way of saying, “I'm going to take care of you, Karen, but you have to trust Me—trust and obey.”

So in these 40 years, God has showed Himself true, true, true, and I thank Him for putting up with this little girl right here. It's been hard. For those of you who are not married yet, marriage is great, but it is like flies on the outside. Flies on the outside want to get in; the flies on the inside want to get out. (Laughter) Marriage takes work.

So we’re going to do a little acrostic. I’m going to give you the four A’s and the three T’s, and then we're going to have a little question and answer time. But first of all, I want to do a little quiz. So take a little spot on your paper. We’re going to give a little love quiz. (Laughter) A love quiz.

First Corinthians 13. I tell the ladies, take 1 Corinthians 13 and put your name in some of those places. “Love is patient.” Put your name in place of love. Karen, is she patient? Karen, is she kind? Karen, is she boasting? Put your name in those places, but here’s the love quiz. I’m just going to give a couple, make a couple statements, and then we'll take some questions.

Here’s the first one. You're going to have a choice of one or two words.

The question is: Is your romance hopeful or hopeless? Today, is your romance hopeful or hopeless? What would you say your romance is?

This is a little quiz, 1 Corinthians 13. We’ll make sense of it in a little bit.

Second question: Is your love generally selfless or selfish? “Not tonight, guy. I still have that perpetual headache.” (Laughter) Is your love selfless or selfish?

All right. Next one: In intimacy, when you’re having a little fellowship time, that's what I'm talking about, fellowship time, in intimacy, do I receive love or accept love? One is that you are, “Okay, okay, hurry up before CNN, comes on.” (Laughter) And the other one is, “Bring it on. I'm just waiting. I'm waiting.” (Laughter)

You figure it out, all right? “CNN, you’ve got five minutes.” (Laughter) Or am I accepting of it? Are you all with me? We're talking, right? We all know, I've been the freezer queen. I know what the deal is. (Laughter)

I had at one point said, “Man, we have all the babies we need. I don't have no babies, the eggs are gone, why bother?” (Laughter) But that's not godly.

Okay, another question is: Is your love patient or impatient? “Man, how many times do I have to tell you that? Man, you know, I don't take out the trash. Get with the program, brother, get with the program. How many times do I have to tell you that?

Or, with Crawford, in the earlier days of our marriage, this is the way God has given me 40 years of getting this thing right is that I don't take out the trash. There are some things I'm just not going to do. That's not my love language, taking out the garbage. (Laughter) And, let me just tell you this: I’m thinking that would have been just selfish. That's just being selfish, but there are just some things I'm just not going to do. But his thing was, “Honey, just take out the garbage.”

I don’t care whether it was fossilizing, maggots were growing and having a family, I wasn't going to take out the trash. But you know, I just decided, “This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous, Karen. Help the brother out, help the brother out. There are more things to fuss and fume about than taking out the garbage. You are being a stinker.”

So I was going to be a big girl. I put my big girl panties on, and I decided to start paying him attention and take the garbage out every once in a while.

It was the same thing with cutting the grass. I don't cut the grass. I don't like to go outside. I don't like bugs. I don't cut the grass. The grass can be at the threshold of the door, and I'm just going to go through it. So I'm nagging him, freezing the brother out. It wasn't working.

So I went to praying, and he cut the grass. But what I had to get over is that when my husband finally did what he was supposed to do, he had to have a party. “Oh honey, come see what I did.” (Laughter)

Now, how many times, ladies, we have cooked, we've cleaned, we've washed the clothes, we’re doing all this stuff, and we don't wait until you draw the pictures and have a party but . . . I was impatient. I was impatient.

So, is your love patient or impatient?

Okay, we're almost finished. Okay. Do I act becomingly or unbecomingly . . . most of the time? Are my actions or is the habit of my life just to act out? Do you always have to be the diva? Do you act becomingly or unbecomingly?

Some of us just want to complain. We wah, wah, wah about stuff that you need to stop wah, wah, wah-ing about. According to 1 Corinthians, it says, “Stop.”

Here’s the last—this is a two-part. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 is poor and 5 is the best), the first part is (Crawford, close your ears): I enjoy a satisfying sex life. Write it down girls: 1 to 5. It’s just between you and Jesus.

And the other part is: My husband would say our sex life is a: 1 to 5. What would he rate you? Just something to think about.

Now, let's get to part that I need to talk about. Turn over to your outline. You can just jot these notes. I have found that marriage is work. Here is an acrostic that has helped me, helped me, helped me immensely: w-o-r-k. Real simple:

Marriage is work. “W” is—it takes wisdom. “W”—wisdom from God. James 1. Some of you may be in the situation where maybe you're married to a guy who is just a knucklehead. (Laughter) Let's keep it real. He’s just a knucklehead.

Maybe you are the strong woman that is just trying to run the show, and you're hitting against a brick wall. Some of you may be married to an unbeliever, and it is tough, and you just don't know what to do. You may be like what my family was—all the men that were born into our family were biological, otherwise the women in my family ate up men. They were an endangered species. These women just ate them up and spit them out. Either they didn't marry them, or they divorced them. Men were an endangered species.

So coming into this marriage I said, “God, they’re showing me in the Bible in Bible college, but it doesn't have anything to do with me. I'll be a Christian, but I’m going to do my own thing because this is my model.” Well, you really can't do that!

I took a vow on May 22 before God and all my colleagues from school and my family. God's reputation is at stake. So when I wanted to act up and be a fool, I’d have to go to the bathroom and talk to myself because I'm saying that God can handle every single thing in my life, but He can't handle me being a wife to a man who loves me.

He could end up being a jerk, too, but I had nothing to do with what he does. My response is to do the godly thing, and work those things out. So I did a lot of what I call bathroom discipleship. (Laughter) Talking to myself in the bathroom in the mirror.

So James says, “If you don’t understand, ask God. Don't be an idiot; don’t be a fool. Ask God.”

O - obedience . In 1 Samuel 15, it says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice” (verse 22). One of the things I learned is that I obey because I don't want my disobedience and my mess to come off on my children. I don't want that to happen. Those of us that are in these tough situations—your marriage isn’t something to write home about—decide: Are you willing to sacrifice your future, their future because you want to be disobedient? That's the bottom line.

I talk to ladies a lot of times, and they'll talk to me and say, “It's hard.” I'm understanding that, and they can't do this . . . can't, can't, can't. I say, “Yes, you can't, but if God can part the Red Sea, if He can raise a dead Jesus, He can probably take care of you and your husband, but it takes obedience.”

Am I right? I know I’m telling the truth. “Obedience is better than sacrifice,” 1 Samuel 15.

R - responsibility . 1 Thessalonians 4. . .this is my paraphrase. It says, “Take care of your own business.” Take care of your own business. I used to have these battling matches where I’d go, “God, Crawford wants me to do this, and he wants me to submit, and wah, wah, wah, but God, what about him?”

And God says to me—not audibly, He’s not audibly speaking, but He says, “Karen, I want to get to Crawford. I want to get to the brother, but you're standing in the way. (Laughter) You’ve got your acrylic nails around him; you're high-fiving him. Get out away, and let him go head to head with God.”

If he's big enough to wear the pants and go head to head with God, let God take care of him. Put him on the altar. Some of us are standing in the way of God getting to your man. Responsibility, 1 Thessalonians 4: “Take care of your own business.” I'm responsible for myself. When I stand before God, I’m not going to say, “God, I wasn't able to do this. This man that You gave me. . .” “Bring that brother over here.” No, God says I'm going to have to face God myself.

And the last one, w-o-r-k, K - knowledge. Know God for yourself and know your husband.

Know what ticks him off, what makes him tick, and what tickles him. Become a student of your man, but more so, become a student and know God yourself.

The four A’s . . . the last thing, the four A’s:

  • Accept him.
  • Access , give him access to your heart and life.
  • Attention , be a listener.
  • Affirm him as a man and for God's provision for you—verbally and non-verbal communication.

Here is what one of my favorite authors has written. This is so true. You guys have to get this book. I wish I could be like some talk show hosts and give everybody a book, but I can’t do it. But I'll give you her name. Her name is Jan Silvious, and she writes in her book, Big Girls Don't Whine.

A big girl knows who she is. She loves the woman God created her to be, and she’s willing to keep growing up. If she is 20, she doesn't settle for living as a teenager. If she is 40, she embraces that transitional decade without holding onto her 30s in terror of the future. If she is 50, she basks in the mellowing maturity that is in her command. If she is 70, she begins to let go with the grace of a life well lived.

Now, she didn’t have anything for those of us who are going to be 60. I'll be 60 on November 6, so I wrote this myself: (Laughter) If she is 60, she delights in the trustworthiness of God. God is a trustworthy God. Can you entrust yourself to Him? Not your man, but you can trust God. You can trust God.

She concludes that by saying, “A big girl wears her life well. No matter what the circumstances comprise her life, it looks good on her.”

You can wear this marriage garment well. Some of us a little tight, we wiggle around in there, but wait on God. Wait on God.

Honey, do you want to come up for my questions and answers? Now, be nice. I don’t want to have to show out on anybody.

Crawford: Will you give me a voice? I want to straighten out a couple things she said. (Laughter) You got your big girl panties on?

Karen: I got my big girl panties on. (Laughter)

Crawford: Okay, number one: I do take the garbage out. (Laughter)

Karen: Oh, now you do.

Crawford: Number two: We've had somebody taking care of our lawn for over 20 years.

Karen: I know, and I know the reason why. You're paying for it, though. (Laughter)

Crawford: So we got issues here, all this retroactive stuff.

Karen: Well, that's true, because you're paying for somebody.

Crawford: That's right. You see, I'm the head of my house. I had her down on her knees the other days begging and pleading and begging, and she said, “Crawford Loritts, come out from underneath that bed and fight like a man.” (Laughter)

We got a ton of questions which means we need short answers, right?

Karen: Well, it depends.

Crawford: This is the reason why we have difficulties doing these things, okay? I'm going to take this one, and then you'll take all the rest?

This person writes: “My Christian parents divorced after 25 years of marriage, the year I married my husband. We have been married two years, and I find it very difficult not to panic at conflict or have a deep fear of being abandoned. What can we do to stay close and trust?”

I think if you think about how you wrote this question, your answer is in how you wrote the question. In other words, what I would recommend to you is to have an honest conversation with him and just come right out and say, “Sweetheart, I am tender right now because the people that I trusted with my life and I never thought would go this way have divorced, and you have to understand, it deeply rocks me. So I'm very sensitive when we have a disagreement that this is going to whiplash on us, too. I just need you to understand me. It's not that I'm trying to avoid conflict, I'm just at a tender spot right now.”

I would also say it might be helpful for both of you to go to a counselor or pastor to help work through all of this. Now, what I would say to him is that, “What you need to preface every argument or disagreement you have with her, is that you need to sit down on the couch, look her in the eye and say, ‘Sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere. These pillows right here, they're the problem. You're not the problem. That's the problem. I'm having a problem with x, y, z, but I'm not rejecting you.’” I would suggest that's what you should do.

Karen: I'll do this one.

“Can you give advice on keeping marriage strong while kids are small? There is a 3-year-old and a 17-month-old, and I have trouble making my husband the priority.”

That is tough. One of the things is that so much energy that goes into taking care of toddlers and really at the end of the day you're just so drained, so drained that you have nothing left. One of the things I learned . . . we had four kids, and I had to learn over the time. Then Crawford traveled 10 to 14 days when he was on staff at Campus Crusades for Christ, so he was gone a lot, and when he came home, I gave everything to my children and yet I was leaving him out, but he was my first priority. God really spoke to me and said, “Karen, your primary relationship after God, it was the two of us. It's not fair for me to give him the leftovers even though I may not feel jovial and just happy. Sometimes I just have to act by faith.

Those times when my kids went down . . . we were on a schedule . . . I laid down, too. I had to make sure dinner was ready at a certain time and that I wasn’t frantically running around the house at this bewitching hour at night when the kids are in bed and I’m so tired. I had some energy because I took a little rest.

Now, some of you can’t do that, and it can be hard. But I took some time to have some rest to recharge my batteries. You see what I'm saying? I had to be intentional about that. The whole idea is don't give everything away physically and emotionally that you have nothing for this man because after a while it will be like we are, empty nesters. Looking across the table we would be strangers if we didn't invest in our time. Don't let those kids steal your love from the man you said you loved. I've learned that the hard way.

Crawford: And the best thing you can do for your kids, and I'm talking to women who are 35 and younger right now, hear me on this, hear me, hear me, hear me. The very best thing that you can do for your children is to prioritize the relationship with their daddy. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know it does. But that's the best thing that you can do.

There is a spike in the divorce rate around age 50, end of the 40s into the middle of the 50s, and that's when the children, many of them have gone off to college, the last one is leaving the house, and this kind of thing. What has taken place is, you didn't mean to, but you poured your life into those children, and now they're gone, and the relationship, the primary relationship with the husband has been eroded. Nobody meant that, but it just happens.

The other thing I would say, and even if we don't, we won't get to a lot of the questions, but this is a huge one right here. One of the great things that Karen brings to the table is that Karen is a very disciplined person. I think sometimes people get burned out not because they are doing too much, but it’s because they're not using their time in what they're doing wisely. Seriously. Stand back and take a look at your hours in a day and make some priorities.

One of the things I’m on a lot of folks in our church . . . We have a fairly good sized church, and stuff is always going on. I'm always concerned about our young couples. Don't make these women and guys feel guilty because they aren't showing up for this men's thing or this woman's thing or this kind of thing. Some things you have to say no to. The most positive word in the English language is no because if you say no, the ability to say no means that you have the freedom and the time to say yes to the right things.

I would encourage you, don't let every opportunity become a calling for you at this stage in your life. Invest in what is really important. Those kids will be gone, and you are not going to lose anything. God always produces dividends in your life when you make right choices and temporary sacrifices. Rose bushes grow and flourish when you cut them back. I just want to encourage you along those lines.

If that's the only thing I could say to young mothers, I would just pour that into you. Say no to yourself, and say no to the pressures of the culture. Prioritize your kids and your family. Prioritize your husband in that relationship. It’s very, very important.

The question here says: “What should I do as a wife of 4 1/2 years? Both of us are on our second marriage. We have no sex life. My husband is showing no intimacy to me. I feel left out, missing out on a true marriage. I'm only 46, and he's 49. What can I do to handle this situation?”

I really feel for you, and I want to say up front: I don't have a solution right now because the very fact of you describing the situation means that there can be multiple layers of issues here.

I would say this: One of the red flags for me, this is not always the case with men, but one of the red flags for me for men who lose sex drive in marriage, a couple of them, one is a physical thing. Make sure he's getting his exam, this kind of thing. With men around the age of 40, the prostate enlargement and things like that can affect sexual drive. That could be a situation.

If I was with him, the very first thing I would ask him in private is this: “Do you have any addiction to pornography in your history and background or to masturbation?” A lot of the times that hidden addiction affects the ability to function sexually in a marriage. That's not always the case. There are studies that men have lower sex drives. Some men, after about age 40, 45 the testosterone levels, it's a physiological thing, decrease, and it is not uncommon for women over 40, for their levels to increase. Things can switch at that point.

I don't know, but I think this is a sign that I would encourage you to get some outside help, to go to a counselor, someone that has insight in this area and to talk about it. He needs to be convinced of the seriousness of the problem. We all have needs, and we all have sex drives. So those would be some top line things that I would say.

Karen: Okay. Here is a question. It says: “When you as the wife must take the lead due to a husband who has an illness but you want the husband to feel as though he is in charge.”

Do you understand the question? Husband has an illness and the woman wants him, to build him up to take charge, but how does she do that?

It's not as though your husband has an illness, but it's the way you talk with him, respecting him, where he is in his illness. He's probably thinking, “I can't provide for my family.” He feels as though he's less than a man because his illness has taken away from his responsibility. But just encourage him.

When maybe you have to make decisions for the family, always include him so that he has a say and it seems as though he's coming up with it. It’s just really respecting him and bringing him into it, and asking the husband into and inviting him into a lot of the decisions.

That's a hard thing. Even at the point where I’ve seen a lot of women that are working jobs and the husbands are laid off. They're bringing home money, and the husband is out job searching, and he’s not having any luck. So you have this sort of lopsided thing, and how should she respond?

Even though she’s working and he’s not, don't demoralize him. Don’t say, “I’m working,” and throwing it in his face and keeping after him and badgering him and whining and nagging him. Be careful of that. Your attitude can really defeminize him, can humiliate him, and be disrespectful.

So make sure in these areas, whether your husband is sick and you’re having to step in and do a lot of things on his behalf, or he doesn't have a job and you're having to step in and be the provider, watch your attitude. Pray for them, encourage them, and let them know that they are still a man in God's eyes.

We have in our power to either bring them up or take them down. Ladies, we know how to do that real, real quick, right? Just be careful of that because these are hard times.

Crawford: I think you are answering two questions that are here, and I won't restate the questions because she's answering them. Let me just say something really quickly that a lot of women don't get this distinction. Every 28 days a woman is powerfully, visibly and graphically reminded of who she is—every 28 days.

George Gilder, in some of his ground-breaking work a number of years ago, made the observation, and I tend to believe this, that from a relational perspective, women have an advantage over men because of physiologically how they're made. Now, I don't want you to forget this, and if you've got boys, I want you to write this down, especially if you have a son that is about to turn 10 or 11 years old. Don't forget this.

Every 28 days a woman is powerfully, graphically reminded of who she is. A man only knows he's a man when his father or significant male role model tells him so. Manhood is imprinted. It's imprinted.

One of the great things you can pray for, if you have a husband that has difficulty stepping up to responsibility, is pulling back and not taking the initiative. One of the things that you can put at the top of your prayers is that God would raise up a mentor or patriarch in his life that will re-father him and re-parent him.

Ladies, if you're married to a man that is passive and you've got a son who is in that corridor, a man's life is deeply rooted and affirmed in that window between 10 and 14. It is the most dangerous time in a young boy's life because adolescent behavior is defined by emotions. Manhood is defined by obligation and responsibility.The time of adolescence is that you're pulling that boy out of impulsive behavior and helping him to appreciate objectively what he ought to do.

Mamas have got to stop rescuing them at that point. It’s at that point that Mama has to stand back and allow . . . Maybe it's a coach, maybe it's an uncle, maybe it's some other exposure, but he has got to get to a healthy male role model that says, “I've got this,” and imprint his life.

You have got to do that with your own husband, too, refusing to bail him out. I know this is counter-intuitive, but don't assume the responsibility that your husband ought to take. Don't bail him out.

Karen is right. Don't just keep fussing at him and driving him down. You have to pray, but at the same time don't keep enabling immature behavior. You can do that in a very respectful way, but he needs to step up. There is nothing worse than a 45-year-old teenage man. Trust me; I see a lot of them.

How do you do that? Never forget the power of prayer, and I think, too, just say to him, “Sweetheart, I am overwhelmed with carrying out this responsibility that should be yours, honey.

It should be yours. You don't know how that makes me feel.”

That's not fussing at him. That's just being truthful with him. Tell him the truth. Tell it to him lovingly and put the burden on him. Ask him, “Honey, how can I help you do what I know you really want to do but you're not doing it? How can I do that? Tell me.”

But pray. Get on your knees. I've seen God do some powerful things in turning around these deals.

Karen: We’re just about finished. I would also add to that because there are some other questions in here concerning husbands that are cruel and mean and just being jerks. Some guys are jerks. Pray Psalm 70. You need to get some defensive prayers and stop talking to people, even your girlfriends, your little prayer group. Pray Psalm 70 on them, and even if they don't change, step out of the way so that when God starts whipping up on them, you're not in line.

You do what you need to do. It's hard, but pray, pray, pray Psalm 70.

Crawford: I would say a parting shot. If you've got a husband that is speaking to you in a demeaning, disrespectful way, acting rude and nasty, don't, in the name of submission, take that.

You can submit to him, but I would suggest that you say to him, “Sweetheart, your behavior is nothing less than sinful,” if he claims to be a follower of Christ. “You're demeaning, and you're disrespecting me. I just need you to know that I know that it's wrong and you know that it's wrong, and you need some help.”

I think you can outline the boundaries of respect that ought to be there but to say that submitting to your husband does not mean that you tolerate abuse.

Father, bless us and help us. God, we need You to direct our families and to lead us and to give us the solutions that belong to You. Thank You for the joy that is found in following You and the joy that You can give us in our marriages. We’re believing You for that. And Lord, we pray that You'll fuel us and help us in all things. In Jesus' name, amen.