The past few days have been absolutely nuts. For those of you who haven’t heard, my husband is spending two weeks as a homeless man in order to give a voice and face to an invisible population: the homeless of Clarksville, TN. Back in May, when he told me of his plan, I was a little rattled—but not surprised. This is who he is, and I made up my mind before I married him that I wasn’t going to squelch the part of him that’s not happy unless he’s in the middle of the fray.
I want to be like Queen Gorgo when I grow up. If you’ve seen the movie 300, then you know who I’m talking about: King Leonidas’s wife, Gorgo, is beautiful, tough as nails, and zealous for justice. She and Leonidas have a powerful, intimate connection, and although he’s one tough guy, he clearly adores her. I believe one key reason he feels this way is that she refuses to do what so many wives do: rein him in .. calm him down … domesticate him. Dare I say “emasculate him”?
There are a thousand ways to tear a man down and thereby damage your marriage; some of them are obvious: ridiculing him (especially in front of others), criticizing him as a person, wearing him out by trying to control him, etc. But if we’re not careful, we wives can also do a lot of damage by trying to get our husbands to stop being who they are by the design of God: warriors … heroes … vikings … Spartans.
Back to the movie: as Leonidas is about to go to war, Gorgo waits until he’s ten or twenty feet away. Then she calls after him, “Spartan!” Notice she doesn’t call him by his name; she knows he’s a Spartan even before he’s a husband. There’s a champion inside him. Like Leonidas, every man needs a cause. Every man needs to slay a dragon. A good man will find a worthy cause. He’ll “go to war” for justice. That might mean he works long hours, or turns down a cushy job to go to the mission field, or dreams “impossible” dreams, or practices his drums late into the night.
The next words out of Gorgo’s mouth: “Come back with your shield … or on it.” In other words, “I release you to go so far as to die for what you believe.” How many modern-day wives would say the same? I imagine that military spouses can relate to Gorgo’s words better than most, but I want to encourage every woman to whom God gave a noble man to ask Him to get you to the place where you can say, “Come back with your shield … or on it.” In our society, it’s rare for a man to lose his life for an honorable cause, but rest assured that if you’ve been blessed with a good man, you’ll have to sacrifice a few things for the sake of the mission God has given him.
Am I suggesting that only men can do heroic things, or that only they are called to take risks for the Kingdom? Absolutely not! I love nothing more than to see a woman discover her inner Joan of Arc. I know a warrior princess when I see one. In fact, I am one. But right now I’m talking to wives who have the spunk to look honestly at one way to honor and serve their husbands that’s been ignored for far too long, even by the Church.
I have an adventurous spirit; I enjoy and work hard in the areas of ministry that God assigned to me. But my Number One ministry is to take care of Kenny so he can take care of the poor. Ultimately, he belongs to God, not me, and I can never forget that. If he spends a great deal of time, energy, money, etc. for the sake of the poor, so be it. After all, his greatest example, Jesus, spared nothing. In fact, Jesus was the most radical, over-the-top Hero of all time. Any time I have to sacrifice the occasional date night or a few hours of sleep or a new pair of shoes so that my husband can pour himself out for something that’s far bigger than either of us, I’m just that much more determined to squeeze every ounce of joy out of the experiences, possessions, and time together that we do have—and that’s a large part of the reason, as far as I’m concerned, that after six years we’re still besotted with each other.
Do you want to love your husband the best you can? Then allow him his sense of adventure and heroism—even encourage it. When he gets banged up, be a safe, welcoming place for him to recover, and then send him back “out there.” When Kenny feels beaten up and exhausted, the best thing I can do is “bandage him up”—maybe with a back rub or an encouraging word, a prayer, or just a hug—and tell him, “Go get us another one, Baby.” He knows what I mean: Go slay another dragon. Go tear down another wall or champion another cause. I love you enough to let you be the hero that God created you to be.