Success: One Husband’s Tale
Success can be a slippery concept. When I was 16 years old, success was actually asking a girl out on a date. At 18 years old, it was the dream of a happy marriage. At 21 years old, it was the idea that maybe, just maybe, throwing a kid or two into the mix would be awesome, too.
Interestingly, at none of those ages did I much care what I did for a living. I wanted it to be interesting, of course, but it was a means to an end.
Work, career, and even starting a business were all subservient in my mind to my first priority, which was always and ever mi familia.
It was indeed a simpler time. Family was a far more valued part of our culture, both in and out of the church. And the glorification of the entreprenerd who worked 20 hours a day creating a software empire was a good 10 to 15 years away. When I was in college we probably would have thought someone who behaved like that was socially maladapted at best or even mentally ill.
But then I became one.
It happened slowly. At first I was just writing software for my classroom (I was a teacher at the time). Then it expanded to getting a few articles published (for money!), then I got paid to actually write some software. Turns out I was pretty good at it.
So in the spirit of Jobs, Woz and Gates, I left graduate school at the University of Washington determined to start my own company. And thanks to being a good writer, teacher and a solid software developer, I had some terrific initial success. It was heady stuff.
But somewhere along the line my definition of success changed.
I got lots of positive strokes from the biz. After all, I helped people write software and they were very appreciative. I had a “tribe” before that became a thing. I also had a magazine where I could reach my audience for free with follow-up products. They call that a sales funnel and a back-end sales channel now and I had them before anybody even gave them names.
My definition of success grew (or diminished, in retrospect) to embrace having a software and technical publishing empire. And in my head I could juggle all my priorities just fine.
But the truth is, I wasn’t juggling them at all.
My wife and I could not have a second child of our own, so we wound up adopting. This turned out to be vastly more difficult than I ever imagined. In fact, it was so overwhelming I more or less checked out for a while and let my wife deal with it.
Combined with a host of other stressors, it was too much for her. But hey, I had a business to run. Bigger fish to fry.
We fought, and I lashed out and said things I regret to this day. I accused her of giving up too easily, of having no perseverance, and torpedoing our dreams.
Oops, turns out that it was just my dream. She was still stuck on this idea that she and my children needed not merely my time, but also my affection.
I knew my affection was elsewhere, but we love what we love, right? I was motivated and nothing was going to stop me achieving my goals.
So God broke me. Much of what I had spent the better part of a decade building disintegrated before my eyes in a matter of months.
I was angry with God for a long, long time. I did not understand why he did not allow me to have this thing I was so eminently well-suited for. My giftings were perfectly aligned to this business and the problems were external and market-oriented. It wasn’t my fault!
Uh yeah, there was a bit of pride that needed to be squashed like a bug, too. OK, more than a little.
But then I began to dwell on these verses:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.Ephesians 5:25 – 30
There are really very few outright commands in the New Testament, at least when compared to the long laundry list of things required of adherents to other religions.
But this is definitely a command to husbands.
God told me to do this and I failed. Not only was I distant and uncaring, I was even angry about my wife’s emotions–emotions that I had literally caused due to neglect and loss of affection.
So I repented. Yes, it was imperfect and partial and my stubborn heart kept bringing me full circle. But eventually I found a strange paradox: Affection follows obedience.
[ I think the reverse is true, too: Disaffection follows disobedience, but that is for another day. ]
The more my definition of success became living out the truth of Ephesians 5:25, the more my affections towards my wife and family grew.
So I would like to lay down a challenge to all husbands: Ask your wife if you are successful in the Ephesians 5:25 sense. Here’s a controversial kicker: She is the only one qualified to give you an answer.
Even you yourself are not so qualified. Why? Because we lie to ourselves. The Bible is clear that the human heart is deceitful, and I know for a fact I deceive myself.
Does that put us at risk to the whims of our wives’ judgement?
Of course. Love is risky.
I was angry at God and felt he let me down. But he just kept loving me and moving me towards a clearer mind and a wisdom far deeper than my own. If our wives are truly unfair in their judgements of us, we need to respond as God does to us, that is with love, patience and perseverance.
I am grateful that I did not wait too long to start changing my definition of success. The longer you wait, the deeper the wounds.
Do not delay, husbands. Redefine success to match Ephesians 5:25ff today. Serve your wives and sacrifice for her. Lead her to a closer walk with Yeshua by your example and your encouragement–and most of all, by your deep and abiding commitment and affection for her.