Friday, April 12, 2013

Gird Up Thy Cape (Vol. 2: On Love and Money)



A day or so ago I started a virtual conversation with a good friend of mine who, like many other geeks, is doubting his luck in love. He's come up with a list of reasons why he must walk the world alone with his destiny and I'm here to talk about it with him. At least until the girls get tired of playing in the back yard and come in with some wild request like, you know, dinner.

Today we're on Lament #3:

Not all of them consider love more important than money.

He sets it up this way:

Given my field of study, my current vocational circumstances, and the current economy, I can’t guarantee financial stability with absolute confidence. While I know how to manage money well, I am not rich. Many women find security in a man’s money and not his love. In other words, they “love” a man for what he has and not for who he is. I don’t work well with such women. The pool shrinks.

Ah, love and money. Never the twain shall meet?

This one is tricky. Our culture suffers from a raging epidemic of materialism that has infected the church just as thoroughly as the rest of society. (Insert zombie metaphor of your choice). I absolutely agree that you should desire a woman who loves her husband more than expensive shinies.

But....

Don't forget what a Christian man promises his wife on her wedding day. He vows to deal with her as Christ does the church, to love her and give himself for her daily needs. That means that as a man, the weight of providing the material needs of a household falls on your shoulders. And yes, it's a heavy weight. A wife has every right to expect financial stability from her husband. She should expect that he will do whatever it takes to provide the needs of the family. My husband told me, when we were dating, that he would not marry me until he knew he could provide for himself and me and at least one child. (It's a good thing he was so wise because our first child came just four months into the marriage.)

I keep repeating the word "needs" because it is very different than "wants." Our society has confused the two in a big way. When you are a husband, you will have the job of discerning between the two on behalf of your family, setting up a lifestyle that gives security but not excess. The wife's job is to contribute her wisdom to her husband's vision-setting and then, once he has made his decisions regarding lifestyle, to submit and joyfully execute his vision in the daily keeping of the home. This isn't easy. For either party. It takes humility and trust in God's provision and a heaping dose of contentment....which only the Holy Spirit can work in our hearts. Good thing He's capable.

When I got married, I came into it thinking I had the "right" to expect that there'd be money to buy new clothes as regularly as I desired, splurge on expensive cosmetics, and decorate my home to my taste. I thought I should be able to have a Starbucks whenever I wanted. I came from a two income home, and adjusting to a one income lifestyle meant giving up a lot of things I just assumed everyone did. As years-- and the added responsibilities of children-- have made me a wiser woman, I have learned (slowly. painfully. thankfully.) to see the beauty in living within my husband's financial priorities. And, to his credit, he is able to provide us with a great deal of our wants. I get a clothing budget, a cosmetics budget, and even some Starbucks money. But it's not unlimited and, during times of financial hardship, it can be cut. On the other hand, he's never once failed to provide our needs, even for the times in our marriage when he had to work a ninety hour week to do so.

I am not saying it is wrong for a woman to work. But she is your helper first. She provides first the nurture and care-taking of your home and your children, not the work of providing sustenance. That means, in practical terms, that if you sincerely desire a wife, and you believe that desire is from the Lord, you must make whatever sacrifices necessary to fill the role of provider. That is your calling. And that calling is higher than the pursuit of even your most passionate personal dreams. If marriage is what you seek, you have to be prepared to give up doing what you love to do if it does not pay the bills.

That sounds demanding. Absolutely it is. Headship asks just as much of men as submission does out of women....but God grants us the will and strength to meet those demands. And out of it comes something beautiful and radical. A woman who submits to her husband, with grace and fearless confidence in the Lord, is more counter-culture than an Occupy Wall Street March. A man who dedicates himself to providing for his family-- even when it requires him to set aside his individual dreams-- is shocking. Such men are not received well in our self-worshipping culture. They are scorned as wage-slaves and fools. They are seen as antiquated relics out of sync with "modern masculinity." But biblical manhood-- lived out with fearless confidence in the Lord and sacrificial love-- stops up the mouths of the scoffers over time.

But what about writing, music, and other creative callings?
I would tell you to pray. Ask God to give you a wife who will joyfully submit to your discernment in setting your family's lifestyle. A wife who will be content with what you provide and not drive you to materialism. But also ask Him to show you if your understanding of your calling may have to evolve. If your focus on a creative pursuit means you could not provide for a household, then you must make a choice. If you choose to pursue marriage, you will by no means have to abandon your creative ventures, but they will have to take a back seat. You will have to start ordering your life and work so that you could support a family should God answer your prayers for a wife. That could mean a career change. It could mean temporary sacrifices. (Though many a great author or artist started out by working during his lunch breaks). The opposite is true-- if you realize that God is leading you to spend this time in your life focusing a creative pursuit for His glory, you can choose to be single for this season. You will be free to serve God without the "earthly hindrances" of a family. You can be risky. You can be a starving artist/writer/poet/playwright. But you cannot be that and a biblical husband or father. Lay both desires out before the Lord and see how He turns your heart.

Take heart that there certainly are woman out there who love a man for who he is, not what he buys. Women who will (not without imperfection) live joyfully with what you provide not what society tells her she deserves.

But those women in turn seek a man who will daily lay himself down for their well-being. They need commonplace superheroes and you can be one.

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