A Few Essential Qualities of an Effective Husband

A Few Essential Qualities Of an Effective Husband

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Every gardener has a garden. Common sense? If you plan to take up gardening, you must have a garden. Another necessary assumption is that it’s vital to know something about gardening if your goal is to have one. It is not common sense to engage in the respected work of gardening with no clue about what it takes to be successful at it. When I think about gardening, I always think of my grandfather. He was a master gardener. Though I did not enjoy working in his garden during the hot summer days of my childhood, I never questioned his expertise. The proof was always before my eyes.

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A Few Essential Qualities Of an Effective Husband

A Careful Gardener

Grandpa was a careful, meticulous, and skilled gardener. I’m not sure if a weed ever stayed in his garden for more than a day. From sunrise to sundown, he tended his garden. Though he did many other things with his life, including being the town’s meat cutter, he had a particular passion for gardening. He was not obsessive about gardening but proactive and caring. He took gardening seriously, and the fruit of his hands was on full display, primarily at harvest time. He kept one eye on the daily needs of the garden while keeping the other on the future harvest. With the end in mind, he did the day-to-day work necessary to bring to completion his future hopes and expectations.

It’s an adage but entirely applicable here: Grandpa got what he paid for because he invested himself in the process. Why am I telling you this? I am reliving my childhood experience with my grandpa because a gardener is an excellent analogy to what a biblical husband should aspire to be. In this chapter, I want to accomplish two things: Envision husbands about their job description while placing the first responsibility of the marriage in their laps rather than their wives. The word husband comes from an old English word, husbandman—a tiller of the soil. We know a husbandman in our day as a gardener, making a husband—in an analogous sense—a gardener.

Proof in the Harvest

If you want to know if a gardener can garden, all you have to do is look at his garden, which is how I learned that my grandfather was a master gardener. The proof was in the bountiful harvest we enjoyed each fall. If you want to know if a husband is a master gardener—that he understands and practices the art of husbandry—look at his garden. His garden is his wife. She is the most explicit and accurate reflection of his gifting, attentiveness, passion, love, and leadership. I am not suggesting that she has no role in her sanctification; that is for later on in this book. The goal here is to highlight the role of the husband, not the non-negotiable responsibility of the wife to love God and her husband with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength as she loves herself.

Whenever a couple comes to me for counseling, one of the initial assessments that I make pertains to the wife. If their marriage is more than a few years old, I want to discern his husbandry ability, skill, gifting, leadership style, and capacities. The most obvious way to do this is by assessing his wife—his garden. She becomes Exhibit A to his effect on her. I want to know how his performance as a husband has affected her. I do not ask him about these things because more objective data is sitting in the room with us. It’s her. It’s formulaic:

  1. Husband = gardener.
  2. Wife = garden.

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Return on Investment

We see this worldview more clearly in Ephesians as it pertains to our Savior. He’s the model for all husbands, whom Paul calls us to lay down our lives for our wives. Dying for your wife is a non-negotiable essential when talking about the art of husbandry. There are many more things involved in being a good husband, but laying down your life for your wife is high on the list. Paul talked about it this way:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

We are familiar with the first part of this text—husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church. Though we see what Christ did—He laid down His life—we don’t talk as much about what He gets in return for His work. Some unwittingly teach that love is giving yourself to another with no expectation of anything in return, a fallacious teaching. We should expect something for the work of our hands. The caution comes when we demand it—to where the result of our work in the lives of others controls us—but it’s never wrong to expect it.

(Christ) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).

Do you see what Christ gets for His effort? He will receive—in some future day—the work of His hands. You could say it this way: He will get a return on His investment. Paul pushes this gospel truth right into the heart of our marriages by exhorting us about how husbands have a responsibility in the overall sanctification and care for their wives. If a husband has been gardening for a few years, there will be objective evidence of his labors, as seen in his wife. These results could be negative or positive, depending on the husband’s work and, of course, his wife’s cooperation. She becomes Exhibit A of what he has been doing since he married her. If he has been working hard, cultivating the ground of her heart, she will more than likely be responding positively.

A Weedy Wife

No doubt there will be some husbands reading this saying, “You don’t know my wife. If you were married to her, you would not be so presumptuous about this gardening thing.” It would be accurate to say that I don’t know your wife. However, it would be problematic for any husband to frame his initial response this way. In my counseling experience, I have never interacted with a troubled marriage where both partners were not at fault. Of course, she has a role to play. It would be preposterous to think otherwise. However, the most likely person to begin with when restoring a marriage is the husband because he is the leader of the home. If a ship is going down, I want to talk to the captain of the vessel first, not his first mate. Too many times, the husband will shrink back from his role in the gardening process by talking about how his wife is the main problem.

This tactic, even though he might have a valid point, is not how any biblical husband should begin talking about the problems in his marriage. If he is humble, he will want to own his role in their dysfunction rather than taking a blame-shifting stance (Matthew 7:3-5). The wise gardener will want to figure out what he needs to do first, not what the plants need to do. The husband should always begin with his failure in a marriage gone sour. I know that your wife has issues. The doctrine of sin informs me about this. My wife has problems, too, but whatever they are, they cannot be my starting point. I mean, who is not messed up?

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The Insane Wife

None of us was a prize worth saving when God redeemed us from destruction (Romans 3:10-12). Still, Christ did not look at us and chose to pass on us because the difficulties and the challenges of the task at hand were too daunting. He rolled up His sleeves and began digging into the weeds of our lives. He did this by setting aside His life (Philippians 2:2-6) and dying for us (Romans 5:8). It would be misguided for a husband to begin by complaining about his wife before addressing his gardening deficiencies (Matthew 7:3-5). If you want to grow in the art of husbandry, do not begin by cursing the soil. Begin with your heart.

A wife would have to be unsaved or insane not to respond to a humble man who is seeking to understand her, love her, and lead her (1 Peter 3:7). Admittedly, there are exceptions; some women can be plain mean, but don’t be too quick to put your wife in the camp of mean-spirited and insane women. I have met many mean women, but in most cases, being mean is not how they want to be. I am not excusing their current meanness or letting them off the sanctification hook, but I’m also not ignoring the deficiencies of the gardener they married.

The Novice Factor

In today’s culture, dads have not trained boys to be husbands. It’s almost an assumption that these kids will unlock the mysteries of the art of husbandry after they are married. They won’t. The ignorance they bring into their marriages will stay in their marriages if nobody helps them before their marriage. If your marriage is still in its infancy, it would be understandable why you may be a novice in the art of husbandry. It is also understandable that your garden (wife) may need more work than an older and more mature wife. But if you have been married for five years or more, your wife is Exhibit A. She is an objective representation of your love and care. If your wife has a lot of weeds, and if you are not sure how to proceed, I encourage you to find help.

Ask your small group leader or your pastor to give you some assistance. Spend dedicated time learning the art of husbandry. There is no shame in admitting ignorance. We all must learn at some point. By all means, do not become angry, frustrated, apathetic, or disappointed if your garden is not meeting your expectations. Cursing the sun or the dirt is not the path forward. Those responses will not help your circumstances. My grandfather knew how to grow stuff. Though he may have been perplexed or occasionally stumped, he always persevered with a little hope and a whole lot of sweat. A friend of mine recently commented to me that she rarely sees couples who have been married for a while and are still in love with each other. Isn’t that a sad commentary on our Christian marriages? Too many marriages are:

  • More snippy than playful
  • More critical than encouraging
  • More hopeless than joyful
  • More business partners than lovers
  • More like an arranged marriage than a passionate romance
  • More like a chore to endure than a union to enjoy

Marriage problems are not how things ought to stay. We have the transformative power of the gospel working in us. We have the Word of God to guide us. We have the Spirit of God to illuminate us. We have the community of God to come around us. The weeds of this world should never choke out the practical wisdom and the power that God provides for His children.

Call to Action

Now that you have the vision, let’s make it practical. Here are a few questions I would like for you to think about and apply. If you’re a journaling person, begin by reflecting and writing during your quiet times. If you are not a writer, find a close friend to whom you can talk about this chapter. These questions are for husbands, with the hope of changing them first and then their marriages.

  1. How would you rate your passion for husbandry, and in what ways do you need to change?
  2. What is your general assessment of your marriage, and how do you need to change it to make it better?
  3. What tools do you need to become a better husbandman?
  4. What are your husbandry weaknesses?
  5. Will you go to a trusted friend and ask him to give his honest assessment of you as a husband? What did he say?
  6. How much time and in what ways do you pray for your wife? Will you begin praying more for her in specific ways?
  7. Write out the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and rate your wife in each one of these nine areas.
  8. What practical things can you do to help her better represent or model the fruit of the Spirit in her life?
  9. Go to your wife and discuss with her what you have journaled and reflected on during your quiet times.
  10. Ask her opinion about these matters and pray together, asking the Father for His continued intervening care in your marriage.

In the first part of this chapter, I used all the following words. Write out the first thing that comes to your mind as you think about yourself as a husbandman. After you finish this assignment, go to a trusted friend and ask him to help you change in areas where you need to change.

Expert Careful Meticulous
Skilled Tending Passion
Proactive Caring Serious
Harvest End in Mind Daily Work
Future Hope Expectations Invested

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