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Blog / Appreciating God’s Design: Parental Fears, Marital Love, and Respect

Appreciating God’s Design: Parental Fears, Marital Love, and Respect

Dr. Emerson EggerichsBy Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

For over two decades, I have been espousing the phrase “Not wrong, just different” as a key principle of the Love and Respect message. A husband who hears, speaks, and interprets “blue” should not be understood as being wrong by his “pink” wife who views the world differently than he does. As well, a wife who sees the world through pink undertones should not be accused of being in error simply for not being the same as her “blue” husband. As Genesis 1:27 tells us—which Jesus reiterates in Matthew 19:4—in the beginning God created us “male and female.” Different. Not the same. Hence, men and women were specifically designed by God, “not wrong, just different.”

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Avoid Email Anxiety: An Interview with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs]

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However, preaching this simple principle is easier said than lived out. For the truth is, my wife, Sarah, and I do not always appreciate God’s different design of the other, especially when our differences are at their most visible. In these moments, we still do not always value our differences as part of God’s larger plan for us as husband and wife. We certainly know the truth found throughout Scripture—that we are two people equal in value in the eyes of God, different and not the same—but we don’t always see how oftentimes those differences are beautiful complements of each other that we need to better appreciate and give praise to our Creator for giving us such differences.

For instance, a mother’s fear for her children does not make her less than a father nor wrong, just different. God designed a part of her core as a woman to be more cautious when it comes to children, generally speaking. Though she needs to face her fears and overcome some dread about her son wanting to jump his dirt bike, in the broad brush stroke God planted some of these fears in the hearts of every mommy for very good reasons that her husband would be wise to consider.

After all, fright is not a bad thing. As we near the edge of a cliff, something in us gives off a signal of alarm. Fear comes over us. Fear protects us. God put that fear in us to make sure we do not step off to our death. Rather than accusing his wife as being wrong for being too fearful of the what-ifs when it comes to their son practicing his dirt bike tricks, based on Ephesians 5:33—which instructs a husband to “love his wife as he loves himself”—a father needs to respectfully love God’s design of his wife to be more cautious. He needs to affirm her concern and caution, not denounce her for being a nervous wreck.

Having said this, a wife needs to lovingly respect her husband’s nature as well, per the second instruction in Ephesians 5:33—“. . . and the wife must respect her husband.” For example, a father, by comparison, who has fewer fears, is not wrong because he likes taking more risks. Though he needs to use wisdom and caution with the son wishing to build a ramp to jump from with his dirt bike, his willingness to allow his son to explore various prospects and take chances is not a bad thing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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In Scripture, we need look no further than young David, who in his youth took down lions, bears, and a Philistine giant. How different would Israel’s history have turned out had David succumbed to his mother’s fear of risk and adventure?

Though many women can do the same dangerous feats that a man can do, and even better since this isn’t about ability, there is something in most women that is more cautious, caring, and tender that causes their interests to differ. Most see the risk of jumping a dirt bike as not worth it. Their nurturing nature drives them toward this conclusion, and even when she consents to the daring risk, it isn’t because she is thrilled.

Likewise, it makes little sense to men why women keep longing to have babies when giving birth seems to be a notch below torture. In their eyes, a few broken bones from a dirt bike accident is a day at the spa when compared to what they see their wives go through in the delivery room, not to mention the months and months of losing sleep, extreme uncomfortableness, and all the not-so-pleasant difficulties to come postpartum. In most men’s eyes, skydiving is much more alluring than all that comes with child birth.

The point, of course, is that women keep having babies because of love, and men do what they do not just because something is fun, which it is, but to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are man enough; they are brave enough to protect others and even die, especially for a woman.

Sarah and I are learning to understand and appreciate God’s design of the other. When we lock into God’s beautiful conception of male and female, we better handle the specific conflicts from our differences with loving and respectful tones. We don’t interpret being at odds as a sign something or someone is wrong in our relationship.

There is a challenge in that the way a man with blue sunglasses sees often differs from the way a woman with pink sunglasses sees. When the husband declares his perspective is right, and she is wrong for objecting to their son building a ramp to jump his dirt bike, and emotions run high, it is difficult for a wife to respond with respect. His dismissive and condescending attitude is unloving to her. Yes, if a husband has assured his wife of his love, she can still feel disrespected. At times, Sarah will tell me that I am not respecting her. But when a husband keeps doing this disrespectful thing, almost every woman in due course turns this into a topic on love. “How can you tell me that you love me yet treat me so disrespectfully?”

For this reason, the husband must be challenged to make a case for his perspective without damning his wife as morally wrong. His goal as an honorable man is to be respectfully loving. On the flip side, every wife needs to make her sentiments known without condemning her husband as immoral. Her aim as a nurturing and caring woman is to be lovingly respectful.

The key for every husband and wife navigating their way through these—sometimes quite drastic—differences is to do so always with love and respect. Ephesians 5:33 leaves no room for exceptions, even in the cases when a spouse is indeed wrong. A husband must love his wife. Always. A wife must show respect to her husband. Always.

But more times than not, the goodwilled, Christ-following husband and wife do not find themselves disputing over something or someone that is wrong, rather just different. Different as pink is from blue. And they should appreciate these differences as God’s intentional designs and, with love and respect, navigate their way to a God-glorifying solution.

The above article is excerpted from the Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs (Thomas Nelson, 2004) by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Copyright © 2004 by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Emerson Eggerichs, PhD (@loverespectinc), is an internationally known communication expert and author of The New York Times bestseller Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs. Just as Dr. Eggerichs transformed millions of marital relationships with a biblical understanding of love and respect, he also turned these principles to one of the most important relationships of all in Mother & Son: The Respect Effect. As a communication expert, Emerson has also spoken to groups such as the NFL, NBA, PGA, US Navy SEALs, and members of Congress. He was the senior pastor of Trinity Church in East Lansing, Michigan for almost 20 years. Emerson holds a PhD in child and family ecology from Michigan State University, a BA in biblical studies from Wheaton College, an MA in communications from Wheaton College Graduate School, and an MDiv from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He and his wife Sarah have been married since 1973 and have three adult children.

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