Dear Husband, Nail Yourself to the Tree and Die


When I talk to Chris, my wife, I am doing more than transmitting information from my lips to her ears. Little ears perk up from behind the couch and catch every word. My words carry weight. One day, my daughters will find them acceptable or unacceptable from the boys they date and the men they marry“My dad never talked like that to me,” they will say. At least that’s what I want them to say.

When I talk to Chris, I model for them what a husband sounds like. But sometimes the sound stings.

When I think about the diminishing of God’s intended brilliance in men — as fathers, husbands, workers, adventurers, lovers, life-poets, and the sacrificial lambs for their wives — I cannot hold back the shame. How I’ve blown it again and again.

I remember being alone in the truck one day during my second year of marriage and wondering out loud, “What am I doing?” I doubted my decision to marry. I doubted my ability to be what I already thought I was: a good man. I was arrogant and delusional. If beauty existed in marriage, I couldn’t find it.

When things were good, early on, they were great. When they were bad, they were ugly.

Become A Contributor

But now, Chris and I have waded into new waters — knee deep in our sixteenth year. We continue to chase dreams and through it all, Chris and I must continue to communicate. It’s the glue to our marriage.

How To Talk To A Woman

I’m a talker. My words, however, do not always bring joy. Often, because I can wield them with pith and thrift, I bash and claw over those I love most.

The church we attended a few years ago offered the Eucharist each Sunday. The elders set the Communion table and offered the wafer and the wine. They instructed us, before we partook, to reflect on the message and encouraged to search our souls for unconfessed wrongs.

God taught me the power of confession through that time of Communion and reflection. I may bash and claw, but I know that I do it. I’m aware. After awareness, however, I must climb my steepest relational hill: confession. It must move from my lips first. It must pull in my love and whisper to her. This is the hardest thing a man can do.

When I’d hear the music play, soft and ethereal in the background, I’d run to God. I no longer sat in my church chair but was transported to the foot of the cross. And there he hung, mangled and disfigured; gasping for breath. The sky, a dark vise, pressing the life out of him.

Beside him, the thief. I hear him confess.

Buy Tim’s 52-week devotional here. 

I love how Billy Graham frames Golgotha. He says on the day Christ died, he became every sinner. I look at Christ again and see someone else — a prostitute, a murderer, a rapist, an adulterer, a molester, a liar, a cheater, and an everyman sinner. No matter the sin, he took it all.

There I’d sit at church and atop Golgotha. I’d watch him become my sin, and then the confession emptied out of me like the water from his side. I’d pull Chris close and whisper, “Can we pray?”

She’d approve and grab my hand. I’d pray and thank Christ for her and the girls. In her ear, I’d ask God to forgive my words and my unkindness. She’d hear me ask for his strength as I struggle to follow his way.

We didn’t always need to confess during Communion — we did have good weeks. We even had great weeks. But the hard weeks, the weeks in which my words crashed into Chris and the kids, I could not wait to run to Golgotha.

How To Love A Woman

One professor in graduate school told me an eye-opening story about his mentor. The mentor was offered his dream job at his dream school. But his wife didn’t feel they should move. She wanted to stay. The common response from many of my evangelical friends when I asked them how they’d react was, “Well, she should follow her husband.”

But the opposite is true.

My professor told how his mentor chose, instead of pulling the family-leader card, to nail himself to the tree and die. Paul exhorts all men to die in service to their wives. Loving my wife and children the way Christ loves the church sounds like beautiful talk. Sometimes I feel a burst of “manliness” quake inside me. But if I stop and step back, I find it’s not manliness at all. It’s a pitch of lies pushing up through my old flesh: You’re the man, make them listen, make them follow, make them, make them.

I’m far away from the doubting and confused Tim in the pickup. My girls inspire me. They breathe a life in me I never thought existed. Their love beckons my true manliness. It’s not in the makingIt’s in the quieting. It’s in the caressing. It’s in the playing. It’s in the wooing. It’s in the singing. It’s in the storytelling. It’s in the whispering — the whispering upon Golgotha while holding Chris’s hand: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

{Originally posted on Love and Respect Now}

Timothy Willard
Posted By

Tim's authored four books, including Shine So Bright, a children's Christmas story, and is finishing his first novel. He and his wife, Christine, co-founded The Edges and are writing a book they hope will inspire married couples to stick together no matter what. He and Christine live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their three pixie-daughters. Sign-up here to follow their work.