MY DEAR FRIEND, GEORGE
by David D. Hambleton
I would like to tell you about George. (Not his real name, of course, but then I am at different times here, talking about a number of Georges.) He is my friend and we have shared many things over the years. I care deeply for him and so, was praying for him the other day. It was brought to my attention that George is destroying his wife and children and I have seen evidence of that. The Holy Spirit prompted me to this writing and assured me that He will show George what he needs in it. I have only love for George and a real concern for what will become of him and his family – and their families – and so on.
It all started out very sweet. They were quite the couple in school, making all the dates and looking very All-American. He was absolutely, head-over-heels, fer-real twitterpated with Iris. And who wouldn’t be? (He and I agree on that issue.) She is bright, beautiful, and caring. She even aspires to a deeper relationship with Christ, and wants to look to him for leadership. Too bad George is spiritually bankrupt. (Too bad I was spiritually bankrupt and didn’t know how to witness to George years ago when we were much closer.)
Iris and George don’t always agree. I’m not close enough these days to tell, but it’s safe to assume communication problems are the crux of it. Those build and intensify the unfulfilled expectations, tough financial times, deciding how to discipline the kids… (Add to this list as you see fit.) Some days its frustrating just trying to be obeyed, understood, or even only heard – for their own good. The sad fact is, this loving husband and father, following the example of his father and grandfather before him is abusing the people he cares about most in life.
My wife and I are each and corporately actively in Christ, formally educated, workshopped, and weekend retreated on marital communication. After years of self-study, leading couples groups, and trial and LOTS of error in our home, we still have trouble together. When I’ve climbed Everest to bring her a cup of pure driven snow for a refreshing drink, she seems angry that I endangered myself and will publicly deride me for it.
Nobody can frustrate me as much or as quickly as my little bride can, and sometimes she admits it is in spite. I have always had an easygoing temperament, but I must admit there have been times when God, in His mercy for her, has acted directly to reduce my blood pressure. Without Christ, she would be subject to my wrath. Without Christ I would have been a sure victim of God’s wrath and condemnation.
What is this thing that Christ has done in me that hasn’t happened in George? God brought me to a fruitful relationship with Jesus. He taught me what love is and how to do it – or at least how to try. Agape love; sacrificial love; love that never changes, it just is.
Paul describes love in his first letter to the Corinthians; “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle tells us how to love. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Picture Jesus, the very creator of all that is, ridiculed and spat on by people He made with His own hands, beaten within an inch of his life by them, made to carry a tree He commanded to grow which was carved into a cross by a creative ability He inspired. He hangs on that cross and prays for those who have put him there, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Nails and ropes do not hold Him on that cross. He hangs by the sheer power of His love. He could have called lightening and split the cross to toothpicks and He could have powdered each of his detractors that day, but He loved them. And he made it clear that if George was the only person who would ever recognize that fact and asked His forgiveness it would have all been worth it to Him. We mean so much to God that He gave up His position of power and glory in heaven in the person of Jesus Christ to serve us humbly and to die so that we might believe in Him and live.
That is the kind of love He calls us to. He didn’t just say we should do it. God demonstrated it in the person of Jesus Christ. Again and again we see the scripture analogizing Jesus’ relationship with the church to that of a husband and wife. Paul continues in Ephesians, telling us specifically how a husband and wife should treat one another.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of His body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Don’t try this without a real relationship with Christ. Note that the sacrificial nature of the husband’s love is in no way contingent on the wife’s action or reaction. It just is. The passage never says for husbands to behave this way IF the wife lives up to her end. It just says to do it. And it is 1st Corinthians 13 love; patient, kind, etc. It is there even though she spits in his face and ridicules him. It is there even though she pours out the cup of water he brought down just for her from the mountaintop and then nags at him for wasting her time and endangering his life. It is there even if she frustrates him sexually. It is there even if she doesn’t respect him, even if she spitefully disrespects him publicly. It is not because- or if-; it is ANYWAY love.
Why don’t I confront George? Frankly, I don’t want George, his wife, or the kids to get hurt. How embarrassing it would be to him for me, the old friend, to take issue with him this way. “George, you don’t love your wife and kids. You adore them. You are devoted to them. You crave their devotion and their adulation and you don’t understand when they don’t give it often or willingly. Because of this, you strong-arm and bully them and they are dying spiritually and physically because of you.” If I thought I would suffer his abuse at doing so, I’d be all for it. Sadly, the trend is for an abuser to take out that sort of feeling on his usual victim/s. (My hope is that George will recognize himself in this writing and be encouraged to seek and accept God’s forgiveness and healing for himself and then set about healing his family. Please pray for that end.)
Iris is a mere shell of the vibrant and alive woman I once know – driven into her root bulb, wintering over through this frosty season. She’s waiting patiently for the Son to shi9ne on her through her husband’s care. (Do you know that the verb form of husband means to preserve, maintain, and save?)
The kids are problematic and surly. They have trouble relating to other people and with authority figures. It is amazing how well kids follow their dad’s example. Please pray that George sees his example in the light of Truth. Pray even if you are George.
And George, please know that I am writing this out of my love and concern for you. I care and I am not patronizing. God assures me that He is very angry with you. Your immortal soul faces judgment for the way you treat your wife and kids (and a raft of other sins). She is God’s child and He will defend her jealously from the devil which controls you. He wants your true heartfelt repentance – just between you and him. Loving the way the Bible describes it is tough and you are enslaved by Satan. You don’t have the power to overcome him without Jesus. (If you don’t believe this, see: The Old Testament.) With Jesus you have assurance of forgiveness and mercy, and not only that but grace as well.
If you want to save your family (by the way, you’ve already driven them away; and you know this…) commit yourself to follow Him. He’s waiting. Then find a good Christian preacher or lay leader near your home. Ask for a vow of confidence and a regular time commitment to meet while you sort this out week-by-week, and pour out your heart. Let him know – sordid details are not necessarily required – where you are coming from and where you want to go. You are not there for his forgiveness or to be assigned penance, but to humbly submit yourself to him for accountability and to pray together – often. In Christ you can break the legacy of abuse and the self-condemnation which cripples you and you can heal your family. Healing may not come soon or even in the way you’d prefer it, but it will come.
God bless you, my old friend; healing will come.