How does our upbringing and male role models affect our happily-ever-after?
“I want to marry a man like your husband,” I told her.
She stopped and looked at me; I expected speedy affirmation, a nod of approval perhaps. Instead she laughed. Long and loud, head thrown back.
Embarrassed by her laughter, I rushed to explain myself.
It was then – as I stumbled to find words – that my friend realized she made a mistake, laughing at my ambitions.
I was single and pretty sure God would bless me with a husband one day. Preferably, one like my friend’s husband – a cheerleader, stable, focused, godly.
Like most women, I filtered men through the microscope of my dad and male role models God brought to my life.
Except, and the reason my friend laughed, I did not seem to grasp the depths of transformation that had to happen, to make a guy worthy to be emulated.
I was drawn by the completed product, the perfect man, the bright display.
But my friend was married to the guy. She knew him like no other person did. She occupied the front row seat, beholding his weaknesses, working together to grow.
Years after that conversation, I would walk into marriage, carrying unconscious expectations – wanting the perfect guy but none of the processes.
Desiring a bit of my dad here and a bit of my positive role models there but none of their weaknesses or refining.
Most women are like that. Actually, most humans are. We love the end product but fuss at the means. And as wives, we can be so defined by past role models, whether positive or negative and forget that God is doing a new thing in our lives.
The same way others had to go through a refining process to get good, is the same way we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work to get good.
Today I want to talk about how to let go of the idealistic marriage view; whether that comes from a positive or negative past.
Because unless we remove old filters, we’ll have a hard time enjoying the marriage we have.
Leaving and cleaving
In Isaiah 43:19-20, the prophet writes to a captive Jewish nation, telling them of God’s eventual deliverance from bondage.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland..Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.
It’s hard to envision liberty and abundance while in captivity. For the Jewish nation, their very captivity was in fact punishment from God for disobedience.
Nonetheless, God was declaring a new chapter in their lives, announcing a new season. Only one thing was required of them; belief in that possibility and their God.
The marriage you have right now and the future you want to create cannot be obtained without a shift of mindset. You can’t thrive without a complete breaking away from the past.
It’s impossible to love your husband and celebrate the man he is becoming without first letting go of the images of your father/father figure.
So let us look at how to bring a Godly perspective into our marriages, whether we had positive role models or not.
1. Forget the positive past.
In Ephesians 5:31, Paul writes: “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
From these verse, we can conclude the man came from a stable home, with a father and mother. We can say he has good role models.
But he’s required to leave them and cleave to his wife.
I know what it means to leave a good home and an amazing father. My dad wasn’t perfect, but he was amazing. He worked hard to provide for his wife and family. He was present when many men were flaking off. He was involved and determined to give us a better life than the one he’d had.
He was also Superman, working with his hands to build things. Like houses. He was unusually brave; roaming our rural cornfields at night to scare (or fight) wild animals bent on destroying crop, with only a pack of dogs and a spear.
After I left home and was all grown up, God continued to connect me to amazing father figures and role models, meeting and mending some gaps from childhood.
My upbringing provided rich fodder for my future husband. I brought high, albeit, unconscious expectations in to marriage. Images of a strong yet quiet man who got things done. A man with high goals, who announced his mind and set about fulfilling them.
I believed I had found it in Tommy. But once we got married, I realized that he was not my dad. He had a lot of qualities I loved, but he wasn’t my past.
A lot of wives are like me, trying to balance the dreams of the past with the reality of the present.
Maybe today, you are mourning the “missing link” in your husband’s life. Perhaps you were attracted to him because he was a bit like your father (or nothing like him, we shall look at that in #2).
But you have discovered he is not like your father/father figure, for the most part.
If you are here today, here’s what I want you to remember; it took a long time for your dad or father figure, to become the great person he was.
In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul says
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
It is not wrong think like a child, to enjoy childhood, if you are in that age of bliss and innocence. But then we grow up. We leave home and cultivate our own lives, outside the home.
Therefore, consider the reason God gave may have provided excellent role models wasn’t so you could compare your marriage to death. It wasn’t so you can be dissatisfied and discontent.
The reason He gave you an excellent past was so you can put as much effort as your good roles models did, so one day someone else will aspire to have the kind of marriage and husband you have.
2. Set yourself free from a negative past
Fathers have a significant influence on their daughters lives- from how they see themselves to how they view the world around them.
I’ve been reading letters written to fathers by their daughters – fathers who were absent or distant. It is difficult for me to understand the depths of hurt and confusion that come from abandonment by your own father.
That said, I will be obedient and write what I feel God is saying to you today. My desire is to remind you of the freedom and healing that is available to you today.
Indeed it feels impossible to get over the past because the emptiness and void are constant. It seems like your world is filled with triggers and reminders of what your father failed to provide you.
Much as you long for that past to be re-written, or your father to acknowledge and begin to fix the divide, it is too great a divide, too big of a hole for a broken human to fill and heal.
There’s too much water under the bridge already and even if he was willing to take responsibility and begin to make amends, you still have to work through the past before you can form a real relationship.
Healing, that profound sense of peace you are looking for in an uncertain world, does not come from reconciling with your dad (though that is beautiful.) It comes from getting with God and choosing to walk this journey with Him.
Remember, it’s a journey, but every step you take towards healing is victory that cannot be taken away from you. The steps add up.
Forgiveness does not mean you have amnesia about the past – I don’t think God is asking you to forget. I don’t believe he’s asking you not to feel hurt, or confused or disappointed.
However, he’s asking you to come to Him with it all. To invite him into your battle. To come to him as you are – with questions, bitterness, unforgiveness, numbness, confusion – and put it before him.
Perhaps you don’t have the words to talk to God because you have ignored your father’s absence/disinterest, and the feelings have been mainly stuffed and ignored.
Friend, what is unacknowledged cannot be solved. Questions don’t get answers until they are asked. God is not asking you to explore a battle He cannot win. So if you don’t have the words, a “help me, Jesus” is enough to start you on this journey.
Total healing does not happen in a day. In fact, we will not be healed until we meet Jesus face to face. But right now, He is our burden bearer, our victorious King who has overcome every pain and disappointment we’ll ever face.
For every hole, every gash in your soul, God is a tender minister. I have seen it in my own life, in my own marriage where God ministers to me through my man.
I had a strict upbringing, our parents were pretty tough on us, but God has blessed me with a gentleman who does not push me around. God finds ways to connect you with people who will act as replacement for what you missed in your life.
The Bible says “God is a father to the fatherless and places the lonely in families” Psalm 68:5,6. As you look around and begin to walk with God, He will bring people your way to minister to you, whether that’s a husband or a father figure, a mentor.
Forgiveness is about your freedom. It’s about getting back your today. You might be aching because of everything that was robbed you. You count and regurgitate everything he did not do and how it has impacted your life and marriage.
You are mad because he added to your struggle and burden, instead of setting you free. You’ve expended an incredible amount of energy and emotion carrying this person who wounded (or continues to wound) you.
And you want to get a little justice for yourself; you want to show him how much he hurt you, or how much you don’t care. Recognize that getting justice for yourself and trying to settle scores is simply lengthening your misery.
There’s nothing you can do to fix your father and take back that gap in your relationship. He needs to own up to things, get right with God.
But you don’t have to be in that prison with him. You can take back your life back, so you are no longer defined by what you missed by by what you have:
- A loving father who gave up his son for your sake, so a broken relationship with God could be restored. 2 Corinthians 5:21
- A loving Savior who is acquainted with your sorrow, pain and rejection and is waiting to carry your burdens and moreover replace them with freedom and joy Isaiah 53:3-12
Your marriage needs your healing. It takes all of you to create a thriving happily-ever-after. If you keep one foot in the past and the other in the present, your marriage will continue to limp.
I pray you begin to draw closer, to take steps towards your heavenly Father as he shows you how deeply he loves you.
I pray these thoughts help you today as you seek to cleave to your husband and create a marriage that others long to emulate.
Your turn – how has your relationship with your father/father figure influenced your marriage? What else can you add? Lets talk in Comments.