ARE YOU STRONG ENOUGH | His Needs – Her Needs
His Primary, Innate Need
It was my junior year in high school that I, measuring 5’1”, took Kim (my eventual wife), 5’9” at the time, to the prom. As with most proms, a professional photographer was on site to capture the moment. When it was our turn to have our photo taken, the photographer asked Kim—with a little too much satisfaction—“Is this your little brother?” I was seething. To make matters worse, he had her sit on my lap for the photo. His explanation was that if he took a picture of us standing, my head would not have appeared in the picture. Flounder, a former coworker, owned a Harley-Davidson Sportster—the smallest line of Harley motorcycles. One evening, he took his ride to a biker bar to hang with the boys. As he was leaving, two guys, who were a bit intoxicated, were walking in front of him. As they surveyed the long line of bikes parked side by side in front of the bar, they would make noises that indicated their respect for and description of the motorcycle. They walked past a large Harley and one of the guys let out a deep “Vroom! Vroom!” When they came to Flounder’s Sportster, the other gent let out a high-pitched “beep-beep.” Embarrassed and angry, Flounder walked around the block, pretending the bike wasn’t his. Why can smallness be so embarrassing? There is a profound truth to be discovered in the masculine disdain for smallness. From an early age, every man desires not to be weak and small, but rather strong. Why is it when you greet a guy and grab his upper arm, he instinctively flexes? Why do most men’s sports involve high levels of intense physical contact? Whether it’s cage matches, football, rugby, ultimate fighting, arm wrestling, or boxing, men gravitate toward intense, physical competition, relentlessly testing their limits. Another friend of mine, an extremely kind-hearted, charitable man, will sometimes spot a man across the room and say, “I think I can take him.” What is going on there? You’ll never hear a woman say that. Rather, she spots another woman across the room and says, “I need to ask her where she got that dress.” It’s been said that when women are depressed they go shopping; when men are depressed they invade countries. When men become depressed and invade countries it’s because they want to prove something. In fact, all of the aforementioned examples testify to an essential truth: a man’s innate, primary, natural desire is to be respected for his strength—particularly by woman. Just as woman’s primary, natural, innate desire is to be cherished for her beauty, man’s complementary need is to have her respect him for his strength.
What Is True Strength?
But what is true strength? Is having the ability to bench one’s body weight true strength? It certainly demonstrates external strength. We admire external strength because it communicates an internal reality. We admire a man who has run the Boston Marathon at a 7.5 minute per mile pace, the sixty-five-year-old triathlete, the champion Olympic boxer, or any man who is past the age of forty who is fit, athletic, and in control of his weight. Why? Human beings are subconsciously and subjectively impressed by people who exercise self-mastery and dedication in relentless pursuit of a goal. Often a man will question his own strength and believe it necessary to compete and fight against another—and if he defeats his opponent, he believes himself to be more of a man than the man he defeated. However, defeating another is not always the mark of a true man of strength—instead, battling against and defeating one’s disordered passions is. There are many muscle heads, Super Bowl champs, and professional fighters who have succumbed to misusing their strength and abusing their wives or their children. No one respects them. This is the key: Every man desires woman to respect him for his strength. However, woman is not primarily interested in his physical strength, but rather respects him if he has a deep, abiding, unshakable, confident inner strength. Ephesians 5 articulates this: “Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of the Church, being himself savior of the body” (Eph. 5:24). “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for her . . .”(Eph. 5:26). “Let each one of you also love his wife as he loves himself; and let the wife respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). These words describe the true definition of strength. The husband is head of his wife and he expresses this headship by being her savior. How does a husband win the respect of his wife? How does he obtain her respect for his strength? By being strong enough to be her savior—by delivering himself up for her. As the joke goes: Married men live longer than single men, but married men are more willing to die. Actually, true strength is expressed by delivering ourselves up on behalf of our wives—dying to ourselves for them. But what does this mean in practical terms? To effectively communicate what it means, it may be beneficial to begin with three insidious enemies that betray our internal strength, and from there, describe what it means to deliver oneself up for one’s bride.
Three Enemies of the Strong Man
The three enemies that betray our strength are: first, mistrust, particularly of God, which is expressed by doubt; second, complaining, whining, grumbling; third, lust. These three undermining enemies are intimately connected and gain their potency by building upon one another. When we distrust God, we begin to believe that he isn’t listening to us, He doesn’t care about us, or perhaps that He is against us. We begin to doubt His generosity, benevolence, and particular love and plan for us. This doubt often prompts us to mistrust others, particularly our wives. When doubt takes hold of our soul, we begin to grumble, complain, resist, and whine about our current situation. This is expressed in little, as well as big, ways: “It’s soooo humid out.” “Is this all the fries they gave me?” “Why is she tired all the time?” “Why isn’t the house clean?” “I hate my neighborhood.” “I hate my job.” When we complain we neglect to be thankful. Thankfulness is the key to having a great relationship with God and unlocking the favors He desires to grant to us. When we neglect to be thankful we begin to believe that we deserve more—the more that we don’t already have. We begin to look around and desire our neighbor’s car, his house, his lawn, his life, his wife. Distrust, expressed in doubt of God, leads to unthankfulness, expressed by complaining, which leads to lust, expressed by grasping, using, and objectifying others for our own gain. This dynamic is powerfully typified in the epic motion picture Gladiator. Commodus, Caesar’s son, didn’t trust the gods, and believed that they turned his father’s heart against him. Considering this, he resorted to scheming to obtain admiration, power, and glory. Commodus is a complainer, a whiner who criticizes, condemns, complains, and even kills his own father. His distrust of the gods led to unthankfulness, which led to his lusting for the crown, and eventually for his own sister. He complains to her throughout the film, “Why don’t the people love me? I will make them love me.” He desires to be respected for his strength, but fails to understand how to attain it. Maximus, the general of the Roman northern armies, refuses to serve Commodus, and because of his integrity is sentenced to be executed. However, Maximus escapes, and he is eventually captured by slave traders and sold to Proximo, who runs a gladiator camp, where Maximus rises to the top. Throughout the film, Maximus never complains or grumbles, but has a silent confidence in his gods (the film is not prefect), and in the end he becomes the savior of Rome, Commodus’s sister, and the Senate, by delivering himself up for them and defeating Commodus. After Maximus offers his life to defeat and kill Commodus during their final battle in the Coliseum, the people hail him as man of strength and march off with his body, while Commodus’s body is left alone as refuse.
Exercising True Strength
These truths are not only found in Hollywood’s epic films, but primarily in Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of strength. On the night of His betrayal, Christ offered the thanksgiving sacrifice—the first Eucharist—“This is my body given for you.” But what could Jesus be thankful for? Christ knew that in only a few hours after the Last Supper he would be betrayed, tortured, condemned, and murdered. What could He possibly be thankful for? He was thankful that His Father would give Him the strength, the courage, and love to deliver Himself up for His bride; that He would be able to save her from sin and for God. Jesus entering the garden of Gethsemane entered the battle to trust in His Father. The battle was so intense that while considering His impending death He sweated blood and cried out, “Abba, Father, you can do all things, but not my will, but thine be done.” That’s perfect trust. Jesus didn’t complain, grumble, or whine about the people not loving Him. He pressed forward, surrendering Himself to His betrayer, and courageously, heroically embraced His cruel, ignominious execution. How difficult it must have been for Christ to see beauty in His bride, knowing that it was her neglect, rebellion, infidelity, and sinfulness that cost Him His life. Yet, He knew that He was responsible for seeing beyond these things to her potential beauty, and delivering Himself up that she may attain that beauty. You and I are responsible for seeing our wife’s potential beauty and delivering ourselves up for her that she may attain that beauty. Woman is vulnerable, fragile, and is continually questioning her beauty. As Professor S. says, “A woman needs her man to be strong enough to deliver himself up for her daily that she may receive from him a vision of her own beauty and person. When the man does this, she begins to believe in her worth, value, and beauty. Man’s strength is not found in the Coliseum but in the day-to-day resilience over lust.” So, what does being responsible for our wife’s beauty and daily delivering ourselves up for her really mean? As Professor S. and I were discussing this idea, I mentioned that part of my job as a graphic designer is to continually search for images on the Internet, which is nothing less than a spiritual minefield, containing a nearly infinite amount of satanic explosives, waiting for men to land on them and detonate them with the purpose of hollowing out their soul. Her response to me applies to all of us: “Satan is trying to incapacitate you from seeing reality. You must be strong enough to face the enemy and overcome him. This is where you wife needs you most—you are responsible for seeing her beauty and falling to this temptation will debilitate you from being able to do just that.”
Keeping Us Sissified
The point is that Satan is continually belittling us, tempting us, coercing us for the purpose of keeping us sissified. His strategy is simple. He first begins to play with our mind, convincing us that we are inferior, weak sissies, and to counteract that feeling, we need to do something that makes us feel like real men. He instills doubts into our hearts—particularly about God and ourselves. He then tempts us to complain or grumble about our wives, their behavior, their lack of attention and responsiveness to us. “You can do better; you don’t need her; she’s holding you back. Look at her, she’s not even trying to be beautiful for you.” He then tempts us to grasp for women, and to believe that being a man is controlling a woman, using a woman, and lusting after a woman. Pornography is man’s way of using a woman who cannot deny him. However, man’s very subjective motive of desiring not to be a sissy, which lured him into using woman, now betrays him. He is now controlled by lust and discovers that he feels more like a sissy than ever before. Do we desire to be men of strength? It is imperative that we strive to defeat lust in the heart.
Two Forms of Lust
There are two forms of lust: positive and negative; both are evil. The positive form of lust masks itself as a man complimenting woman for her beauty with the sole purpose of manipulating her and using her for his personal lustful gratification. It is often said, “Men will use love to get sex; while women will use sex to get love.” The negative from of lust is expressed when a man looks to his wife to fulfill his lustful desires, but finds her wanting, unattractive, and not hitting the world’s impossible standard of beauty, and therefore shuns her. Distrust of God and His plan for us leads to unthankfulness expressed by grumbling about our wives, which lead to lust—and lust kills marriages and families. Why? Because lust is taking—the exact opposite of God’s glory, which is self-giving love. Whether we are fighting the temptation to use our wives for our own personal gratification, or are unwilling to engage her because we believe that she is beneath our standards, or are tempted to lust after other women, it is imperative that we lay ourselves on the altar of our bed and say, “This is my body given for you.” (Actually don’t say this aloud—it would be very awkward for your wife. Perhaps just pray it silently.) By doing so you will be delivering yourself up for her and become her savior, and she will begin to respect you for your true strength.
Strength’s Great Paradox
Now, regarding these messages and their content, a friend has said to me, “Schadt, it’s not that easy. You can’t tell people, “Just do it.” This isn’t Nike. It’s like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking. Or making a guy consume a box of laxatives and then have him drive two and a half hours to Des Moines without soiling his drawers. Schadt, it ain’t happenin’.” He has a point. We cannot overcome lust ourselves—or obtain any virtue—by ourselves. As Alcoholics Anonymous teaches, if we are to overcome our addictions, it is imperative that we take the first step and trust in a higher power, which is Jesus Christ. So how do we do this? This is the great paradox and challenge to being a true man of strength: to be great, I must first admit and believe that I am little; to become strong, I must first admit and believe that I am weak; to be exalted, I must first humble myself before God. This is not being a sissy, but rather the beginning of real manhood. The key to being respected by woman for our strength is to deliver our bodies for her, and to deliver our bodies for her, we need Christ’s redemptive grace, which mandates that we first admit that we cannot do it ourselves. But the unfortunate truth is that most men ironically are not strong enough to admit that they are weak. Or they use their weakness as an excuse to remain in their sin—“I’m just a weak man, I cannot change.” Most men simply won’t face their weakness and submit it to Christ. We must be different. The early Church began with an extraordinarily small number of men. Today, the Church is in desperate need of renewal; the family is in need of restoration; and you, my fellow fathers, though we are few in number, can be the nucleus of a renewed, restored, and revitalized Church. Lord Jesus, we submit our weakness to you. We trust you. We believe that you will pour your redemptive grace into our souls and bodies and grant us the strength to deliver ourselves up for woman and be her savior. As Maximus said, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” And as Jesus said, “He who loses His life for my sake will save it.” The man who trusts in God—believing that God does not want him to be a sissy, but rather a mighty warrior for the Kingdom, a man who is thankful for his wife, a man who strives to defeat lust in his heart—will eventually be respected by woman for his strength.