(By Sandy Armstrong; this is an excerpt from a private letter Mrs. Armstrong agreed to allow us to publish.)
We recently returned home from two weeks at the beach with five of our children and their families. It was a wonderful time.
In talking with one of my daughters about the challenges of a young marriage with young children, we talked about husbands—imagine that. And I talked with her about the necessity of considering her husband and her relationship to him as primary, second only to our relationship to the Lord. We talked about the consuming nature of working to meet our children’s needs (and let’s face it, their desires, and ours). And I warned her that if she did not keep it in the forefront of her mind that her husband (and their relationship) was primary, that one day she would find she had relegated him to “support staff.” Because really, a young mother needs help. And she needs it now—or so she thinks. And we all know that support staff is really only useful if they do their job—and keep quiet.
As Christian wives, we know that we should call our husbands “lord.” But sometimes the honest outworking of that is that we are willing to call them “lord” only in that we look to them for provision and protection. Other than that, they are support staff.
And they, seeing our exhaustion and thinking in their hearts that they could never do what we do, hesitate to add to our burden submission to them as our husbands. But it is a beautiful thing when a husband and wife can understand that submission is not a burden, but a relief.
In talking further with my daughter, I was reminded of my mother saying quite clearly to me when I was about eight that her relationship with my father was primary, and I was secondary. I was insulted. She said this to explain to me that under no circumstances would I sit between them in church. I could sit beside her or beside my father, but I would not sit between them. From that day on, I watched to see if that was true, that their relationship was primary, and I found it was and was comforted by that fact as the decades passed.
And as my daughter and I talked more about what marriage looks like with young children, I said “so it is critical that you always remember that your husband is… and here she interjected by way of agreement ‘important.'”
“No, not important,” I corrected. “If he is only important, you will never cater to him, never bend your will to his, never make a plan in preference to him over your children. It is critical that you regard him, and your relationship to him, as primary.”
Several years ago, a wise man said to me in some unremembered context that the best thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother. That stuck with me. Isn’t that sweet? The best thing our husbands can do for our children is to love us.
But if we know scripture, we know that it references obedience—Eph. 5:25:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
The corollary must be that the best thing that we can do for our children is to respect and submit to their father:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands. (1Peter 3:1)
I was recently asked to write something about what I think it looks like today for a wife to call her husband “lord.” I add it here, because I think it could go a long way toward bringing joy and harmony to your lives.
Calling our husband “lord” in the 21st century.
Our example in this is Sarah, who was praised for calling her husband, Abraham, “lord” in Genesis/Hebrews. This concept is so antithetical to our current culture that even those of us who hold to it feel a little uncomfortable with the wording. Those who would argue it is ridiculous quicly remind us that of Abraham’s ill-conceived plan to safeguard himself against foreign rulers by having his wife misrepresent herself as his sister. Thus, as she found favor from the ruler because of her beauty, Abraham found safety because of his relationship to her.
Christians who hold to the inerrancy and authority of scripture are silenced by the magnitude of his error—not once, but twice. So when we feel that our husband’s flaws exempt us from calling him “lord”—well, not so much.
So today, what does it look like for us to call our husband “lord”?
This is not intended to be exhaustive, but here are some habits I learned from my mother who modeled this for me every day, and seemingly without effort. While I say that she modeled it without effort, I don’t believe it. My mother had a powerful will. She did not hesitate to take me on. She was not weak, she did not have low standards, and she did not wear rose-colored glasses. She never made the mistake of calling me “lord.” The habit of calling my father “lord” must not have come naturally to her, but she was committed to it and excelled at it.
1. Cook his dinner. If my mother were here, she would say —”and his breakfast.” She would say “Always cook his breakfast and eat breakfast together.” This is to say, sit down with him. Take time to begin your day with him.
In fact, our grandmothers almost certainly fixed two meals a day for their husbands, and many cooked three meals a day—every single day.
Cook his dinner—if you hear those words and obstacles immediately spring to mind of why you cannot cook his dinner, ask yourself, “Am I calling those things ‘lord’?”
2. When he calls to you, answer “yes.”
Don’t say “What?”—indicating you have a filter up through which his words will pass and be judged.
Don’t say “I can’t hear you.” If you can’t hear him, say “I’m coming.” Go to where he is (remember, we are calling him “lord.” What servant says to his master, “Come in here”?) Of course there are times that you cannot actually move yourself to where he is, but if it is your intention to do so, the occasional “I’ll be right there; I’m changing a diaper” will not erode the heart that calls him “lord.”
Don’t say, “wait a minute.” Answer “yes” immediately, and if the question or request cannot be immediately met (and this should be the exception rather than the rule), answer respectfully as to the reason and when it can be accomplished. “I’ll put my shoes on and be right out to help you.”
Of course, the secret to this is not to be constantly occupied with things you consider critical.
3. When he speaks, look at him and be silent.
Don’t stare straight ahead at the thing that had previously held your attention. Turn your head and your eyes in his direction.
Don’t interrupt to correct, amend, chastise, or ridicule him.
Look at him and be silent.
4. When he returns home, stop what you are doing, go to greet him at the door with a smile, a kiss, and a “Welcome home.”
This simple habit will begin to inform your day. If you know that in a few short hours you will be going to the door to greet your “lord” with a smile and kiss, your heart will avoid the harboring of annoyance, resentment, and contempt. And if it does not, ask God to help you to rid your heart of those sins against your husband.
Your attitude towards your husband’s return will school your children. When you hear the car, announce “Daddy’s home.” These words should prompt the children to go with you—behind, not ahead of you—to greet their father’s return. And they will begin to understand that, to you, he is “lord.”
Not only is this a beautiful way to live in the wonderful estate we call “marriage,” but it teaches our hearts to respond with love and submission to God, just as our children’s obedience of us teaches them to obey their heavenly Father.