1. (v.19) - for the Husbands - "...Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them..."
2. (v.21) - for the Dads - "...Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart..."
Embitter & Exasperate. Just by reading these words you know they don't sound good. Let's define them:
- Embitter - to allow bitter feelings to exist; "...to excite bitter feelings in..." (Merriam-Webster's dictionary online)
- Exasperate - to cause to react in such a way that suggests acceptance of a challenge / arouse / provoke
What would cause me to become bitter against my wife? That sounds really harsh! It must be a common thing for husbands to experience, because the Apostle Paul addresses it. I think many times in the marriage relationship, there is frustration in the fact that the wife doesn't "think like" the husband - therefore leading to some real communication issues. Just because our spouse may be "wired differently" doesn't mean she has no valuable input. Differences in opinion may be a cause of excited bitter feelings. But I think there is more.
I think that many times husbands tend to not communicate properly and engage their wives in what they (husbands) are thinking about - and then when a decision is made, it is to the total surprise of the spouse. "Honey, look at this XBOX 360 I just bought on eBay!!!" <- for example. Then when the wife reacts with incredulity the husband becomes embittered against her for not "going along with the program", etc, etc. You know what I'm talking about if you've been married for any length of time.
Or how about the fact that you have spent the entire day at work thinking, dreaming and planning out the family vacation. Your wife is at home tending to the matters of the house. When you hit the door at 5:15p you proudly exclaim to your wife, "Honey, this year for vacation we're going ice-fishing in Alberta, CA!!" Your wife's jaw hits the floor as you explain how you've reserved the 'finest cabin' in a spot only accessible by snowmobiles. The cabin that doesn't have electric or running water, but does have cushioned toilet seats in the outhouse. And when your loving spouse bursts into tears and collapses across the bed, you get embittered and flip on ESPN.
Get the picture? These are some ways to be bitter towards the girl you pledged to stay with till death did you part. How do you counter these feelings? Read the first part of the verse. LOVE. Put her needs, wants and desires before your own. Live to serve her. That's how to avoid the bitterness - and you'll find intense satisfaction there as well!
If you have teen-agers you may have experienced this already in your home. But it can happen at younger ages as well. "Provoke to anger" may also be a good translation. When we refuse to parent the child's heart and simply attempt behavior modification for our own ease in life, often we can stir up feelings of anger in our children. We cause them to choose to accept the challenge of authority. We do this as dad's because we have idols in our own heart we refuse to deal with: Comfort, Acceptance, Appreciation, Respect, etc. When we don't get our idol - we become infuriated and react in such a way that cause our children to become angry and eventually "lose heart". While they have a personal responsibility to obey and honor, we make it difficult for them to do these things and actually become the catalyst for them to choose to sin. Not what I dreamed of when I dreamed of being a dad. Two excellent books I suggest for reading that will go indepth on this subject: Shepherding a Child's Heart & Age of Opportunity.
We have great responsibility as husbands and fathers. We are the leaders. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, etc. We don't have a choice. We were saddled with that by God. You might not think it's fair, but all I got to say is "Cowboy Up".
Seriously, how do you accomplish these enormous tasks of being the right husband and right dad in dealing with your family? Where do you learn this responsibility - especially if you have no good examples in your personal upbringing? The answer is found in Colossians 3:
1. God's Word - 3:16 - let it dwell in you richly
2. God's people - 3:16 - we should be teaching and admonishing one another daily with God's Word.
My prayer for myself, and anyone who would read this is that we become men of the Word. Husbands and Fathers that are not subscribing to the "two E's" found in Colossians 3. May God bless your endeavors in these areas!