As a teacher, I find it somewhat disconcerting that people can totally miss important points that I am trying to make. Teaching can be a little like the children’s game of “Telephone,” in which the first person to speak says something like, “I like peanut butter,” and by the time the message hits the ultimate recipient, he thinks the message is, “Go Bucks, beat Michigan.” Sometimes people miss things because I am not clear enough. Other times they miss things because they want to miss them.
Unfortunately I have written proof of a time at which I missed an important point that a teacher was trying to make. The year was 2006, I believe, and Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his wife, Sarah, came to Scottsdale Bible Church to present the Love & Respect conference. The material was really insightful. Unfortunately, my wife was sick and was not able to attend the conference with me.
After the conference, there was a book signing, and I took advantage of it. Dr. Eggerichs asked me what message I would like him to write in the book I had just purchased, and here’s what I asked him to write—which he kindly did:
Stacey—Sorry you weren’t feeling well but enjoy the book!
–Emerson & Sarah
As I made this request, I noted that Sarah’s reaction was somewhat warmer than Emerson’s, and though this may just have been reflective of personality or what the two of them had eaten for breakfast, I have since wondered if Dr. Eggerichs didn’t see through to the real meaning of my words:
Stacey—Sorry you weren’t feeling well enough to be here and find out how much you need to respect me.
Eggerichs’ teaching on respect is what makes the conference really unique, and this teaching resonated deeply with me. Here’s the problem: I was focused on the way Stacey (a very respectful wife, by the way) should treat me, rather than how I should treat her! Dr. Eggerichs spends a good deal of time in the conference urging just the opposite, but I didn’t digest that emphasis because I didn’t really want to. I had totally misapplied the teaching of the conference before it was even over.
It is uncanny how often people attribute their marital problems almost solely to their spouses. Both spouses in a struggling marriage will usually have eagle-like focus on the alleged flaws of the other person. The biblical way, though, is to focus on our own hearts, and on how we can behave in a godly manner toward our spouses, regardless of how they treat us.
Love & Respect? Great stuff. In Ephesians 5:33, Paul tells wives to respect their husbands, and he tells husbands to love their wives. Men, let’s concern ourselves with how we can love our wives rather than how we can get them to respect us.
What about you? How have you seen these issues play out?
—Beau StanleyFollow @beaustanley