How do you view your spouse? It’s not a philosophical question, nor is it an academic one. In fact, it might tell us a lot about the quality of your marriage and the depth of the reality of your love. We live in an age of cheap talk and facades. We work harder at learning to play the game than living a life worth living. Sadly, this runs true in categories that should have no part of it—marriage, family, and even the spiritual life. Can we be suave as Cary Grant, or as manly as John Wayne, or especially charming? Aren’t these the qualifications of real love? Isn’t this what our culture screams at us? Maybe the question should be, is what gets love going the same as what keeps it going? An inferior opinion about what your spouse is will drain the perceived value of the largest quantity of charm you may have. There might be some buyer’s remorse as the years roll by too. What we really think could be a handicap to all our marriages could and should be.
The options are mostly just two. Is she my tool or my treasure? I know you would answer “treasure”. You wouldn’t want to get in trouble and be thought a louse. So you might proclaim “treasure” and after you receive your pat on the back, tell your “tool” to get her backside in the car. Always remember, though, that she knows. The rest of us may only know what you say, but she knows your thinking. If you’ve even fooled yourself, she knows. Still, I wouldn’t even waste my time writing this article if I didn’t believe we can change our thinking.
The Lord always knew that we secretly wanted a tool when He wanted to give us a treasure. It’s the collateral damage of the Fall of Man. We can’t, though, give in to the worst within us. Sadly, the point should be made that Christian men sometimes have as warped thinking here as anyone else. Some even twist Scripture to transform their treasure into nothing more than a tool. I firmly believe the Scriptures teach the headship of man. (I am a convinced complementarian rather than an egalitarian). Still, what was the purpose of God’s design? Was it that men be honored over women with something slightly better than a servant? When the Bible said in Prov. 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD,” how exactly do you interpret that? Along the lines of “I hit the jackpot! It’s like Mama Plus?” Or something closer to “Here’s someone that can complement my weaknesses and together we can be far more than we ever could have been alone?”
Most of us find it disgustingly crude to hear some man say women are only good for the kitchen and the bedroom. But even in Christian circles I’ve run in, I’ve seen the women who walk beside their husbands with heads always hanging low, or being talked to as if more stupid than an animal out in the field, or being expected to ask before they spend $2.95! Some of us are better than that, but how much? Our being more naturally selfish than the fairer sex blinds us at times. That “love” command to us asks more than that “submit” command does her. It’s so easy to quote her command to her and never discuss God’s command to you. I guarantee you she thinks of it. Wouldn’t love notice that some days she can’t give? That sometimes she needs to be taken care of too? Are we so dense that we can only figure that out when she has an emotional meltdown? Perhaps several days leading up to that there were needs love should have noticed. There may even be seasons of life where she needs a little extra.
So let’s distinguish this tool-versus-treasure thing. With a tool you just do what you have to because you don’t want to miss a moment of its use. You know, like grease it so it doesn’t grow rusty, or change the oil to keep the motor going smoothly. It’s like the man who thinks his wife should be eternally grateful that he allowed her to go to the doctor after she had been sick a month. But when you have a treasure sometimes you don’t want anything other than holding and cherishing it.
One day I made this “tool versus treasure” comment off the cuff after being exasperated about what to tell a young husband. Equally off the cuff, my Alicia said she hoped she wasn’t a tool because if she was she was a broken one. That completely makes my point. If she was only my tool, then I lost a lot the day she woke up paralyzed. She has been a go-getter, but she can’t clean the house like she once did, or get around the kitchen, and on and on. In fact, she has never loaded a wheelchair in the back of the van for me. If she is only my tool, now I’m doing more of the work and the tool less. Most people get a new tool when that happens. Could that have something to do with why marriages fail at around 80% with Spinal Cord Injury marriages? We heard recently of a man who left his wife after such an injury and when leaving told her, “I need someone who can walk on the beach with me.” It never crossed his selfish mind that perhaps she’d still like to walk on the beach too.
But if she’s a treasure, it won’t matter. A treasure’s value is not in what it does, but in what it is. When I was scared my wife might die I didn’t care at all about the house cleaning or anything else. Yes, I want to push her to realistically do her best. After her paralysis she couldn’t do everything she once did, if for no other reason, she wears out more quickly. I told her one day which of the things she did for me that was the most important to me, and I’d love her to put her energy there first. Beyond that, I’m comfortable with letting it go. If you come to our house unannounced you may find on occasion how sincerely I mean that! You see, I don’t have a broken tool; I have a fully intact treasure. I lost nothing of what I cherished most the day she woke up paralyzed. I’m glad in my heart I had a treasure rather than a tool, or where would I be today?