2. Is There a Man in the House? (Genesis 12:1)
The modern American man is a man among men. Now this has always been the case right down from colonial days until now. In colonial days the American man was a man of conviction, willing to leave his roots, take his family, move to a new, wild, untamed country and there establish a society that would be focused on his beliefs about God.
The great among them: John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Colony; Cotton Mather, the outstanding pastor of that time; Jonathan Edwards, a world class philosopher and thinker, all communicated the conviction of colonial America. In the revolutionary days a nation of just a few hundred thousand was graced by a collection of world-class minds that created, designed and created some of the greatest documents ever put together in all of history. Documents that define freedom and responsibility, the tension of health. Documents that declared equity and justice and respect for humanity under the hand of God Himself. And out of that, there was the courage to stand for the conviction that they held. In the days of Manifest Destiny there was a commitment, not every thing we did was right by any means, but there was an intense commitment to fulfill the dream of a nation coming into being. And when that commitment was challenged during the Civil War days there was that lone strong tree of a man standing in the storm of anger and fear holding that conviction and that courage together through commitment that kept us united.
As we came into the twentieth century we came in with a confidence, a confidence in our conviction, in our courage, in our commitment. A confidence that enabled us to fight two world wars and to stand for justice throughout this entire century and even today a handful of our young men and some women stand at risk.
And now we enter the twenty-first century. Perhaps Peter Drucker is right; perhaps we're already in the twenty-first century. And now we see the creativity that marks us that's unique as we lead the way in the era of knowledge toward a technology that's designed to make life more effective, more efficient.
Now don't misunderstand me. It's not my intention to leave women out of this conversation because the American man has never gotten anywhere without a woman beside him, very often in front of him, perhaps more often behind him moving him along. But my primary focus this morning is on men. Women will benefit from my focus because what I want to talk about this morning is a follow-up to what I started last week. It's to raise the question: Is there a man in the house?
It's a very strategic question because, you see the modern American man is a man, a man everywhere but at home. Because when the modern American man comes home, unlike colonial American man, when the modern American man comes home he becomes the missing man. Too often the American man is a man everywhere but at home. We see it in the divorce statistics. We're tired of these statistics; we're tired of hearing all of this, all of this stuff. We're just, we're just up to here with it and yet at the same time we can't deny it. We have to do something about it.
We see it in adult men and adult women, but most often we see it in adult men: longing for, even craving the love of a father and the model of a man who has that conviction, who has that courage, who has that commitment, who has that confidence. The question I need to ask this morning is why is the American man a man everywhere but at home? And I would like to suggest that we fall into a historical reality and I would like to suggest that we want to build our own identities and be in control of our own destinies and we can do this everywhere if we work at it but at home. That's one place where we can't quite pull it off. You can work, think, create, carve out, design, move through your careers. In fact, that's where the majority of the energy of the modern American man goes; it goes into our careers; it goes into our success; it goes into our achievements. And it's there that we hammer out our identity and it's there that we feel we become somebody.
But the problem is then we have to come home. When we come home,we come home to a woman assuming we're married. Or we come home to loneliness and emptiness assuming we're not. But when we come home we come home to a place and a time for intimacy and it's there that we break down. For with all of our history of conviction and courage and commitment and confidence the modern man finds it very difficult to make connection in intimacy.
You see, in the one thing we cannot control is a woman. We can fake it out at the office; we can fake it out in a sales presentation. We may be able to hammer it out in negotiations. We can be tough on the playing field, but when we come home she sees right through it all. And that's frightening because, see, fig leaves never work at home.
See we have a deal going out on the street. The deal is: you don't bother my fig leaves, I don't bother yours. You mess around; we'll take care of that. See that's what we grow up, that's how we grow up. I don't know where you grew up but I grew up in a neighborhood that taught me that fairly early on. You got your fig leaves; I have mine. You leave mine alone; I leave yours alone. That's about the only handshake deal that's going on and even that's being challenged today.
Now the fact of the matter is, you see, as Christian men we add God to the equation. The problem is we seek to be in control to define ourselves, to fight and win rather than to relate and to love. And the problem is too, that we have to live on two different kinds of fields or turfs you might say. The tough turf of the business world out on the street and the tender turf of the home and the family and the transition can often become very difficult and confusing. And that's why we're missing men when we come home.
So we add God to the mix and we use God words to define ourselves. We see God. We want to please God, but we mix this all up with the reality that we are seeking success and satisfaction. And the fact of the matter is the average male wants to manage his career to get success and satisfaction and that means more to him ultimately than being what God has called him to be.
As long as we're in control we're delighted to have God involved, especially when He blesses us. You know, "I have been blessed." That's a great saying. Problem is, God has no intention for us to be in control. That's one of the reasons why he gave us the wives he's given us, for those of us who are married. I mean, there's a design there; there's an intention there. My former colleague, Paul Meier, of Meier-Minirth has said, "We get the mates - we deserve the mates we marry." I don't think I do. I think I've done far better than I deserve.
But you see the best thing from God's point of view in our lives, is not our achievements or our success or our satisfaction but our trust. Because it's trust that makes us men, real men. It's trust that enables us to be men of courage and men of strength on the street and men of compassion and men of tenderness and love at home. And that's what God is all about. That's what God is all about in our lives men. God is all about teaching us how to trust Him. That's what He's all about. That's what everything is about in our lives. God is all about teaching us how to trust Him. We've entered into a covenant relationship with God and He is all about working in our lives to bring us to the place where only the supernatural can be done and only He can do it, and that's what He's all about in our lives.
And I want us to see this in the life of this ancient man, Abram, who becomes Abraham. We looked at him and saw four traits that marked him: spiritually responsive, financially responsible, personally generous and physically protective. Those are four fantastic traits. I tell you if you want four traits in a man you've got them right there. How many of you women would line up for a trade in right about now? You know, where's the dealership? Let me drive this one down. I want to trade him in, what do you think he's worth? Spiritually responsive, financially responsible, personally generous, physically protective but when Abraham came home, Abram the man became Abram the missing man. He was missing for three reasons. He led partially; he obeyed partially; and he trusted partially. In each of the reasons why when he came home he led partially, he obeyed partially and he trusted partially, each of the reasons, each of these reasons finds one common root. And the common root that you find in these three reasons is this: Abram failed to be the spiritual head of his home. Financially he was there, physically he was there, but emotionally he was missing because spiritually he was missing and his wife paid a terrible price.
Genesis, Chapter 12. Some of you may have noticed that I surfaced this passage last week. Did any of you who were here last week notice that? I've had other women almost interrupt me in the middle of my presentation at Genesis 12, because, you know I presented it as a very successful event for Abram, and if you look at it financially it was. Like many financially successful men Abram took a bear market and made a bull out of it you know. And like many financially successful men he did it at the expense of his family, specifically his wife.
In Genesis, Chapter 12, we discover Abram is a man who leads, excuse me, who obeys only partially, who obeys only partially. He becomes the missing man. Let me back up. I think I would rather say here he leads only partially. Genesis 12:10 he leads only partially. He's been obeying God; he's left his home; he's left all of the stability of his past; he's entering into a new territory; he's entering into a new world. And he comes to the place where God directed him and in Genesis 12:10 there's a famine in the land. And so what Abram did was say to his wife: now look Sarai, we're here because God directed us here. I know that we have all of this wealth; all of our wealth is in livestock and it really needs rain. It really needs feed and I know this really looks difficult but here's the thing – we trusted God this far, we're going to keep on trusting God.
That's what he did, isn't it? Is that what he did? He didn't do that? You mean when he led his wife in the will of God away from all of the comfort they had known in the greatest city of their day, the most magnificent city in the world at their point in time, and he led her into this barren, sort of at least at times barren, certainly barren when they got there, frontier land, which is what it was, the frontier land with several warring tribes trying to establish control over this particular economic commercial bridge leading from where he had come, Ur of the Chaldees, down to Egypt. He followed God but he didn't keep on following God.
Now there was a famine in the land in Genesis 12:10. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there. Beginning of a problem. I don't know how many conversations I have had with guys in business across 30 years now. Thirty years of talking with them, interacting with them and I don't know how many times I've heard them talk with me with great regret and say, "I made a decision, but I didn't ask the Lord." Ever make a decision and not ask the Lord? "I made a decision, but I didn't ask the Lord."
You know these conversations, sometimes I'm working with a guy and I'm trying to say well look, wait a minute, things aren't as bad as they look. Look at this, look at this, look at this, you couldn't have known about that. Then he says to me, "I didn't ask the Lord." What am I going to say? See I meet a lot of Christian men who want to be committed to God, who want their families to walk with God, who have their kids in Christian schools, who are concerned about the public schools, who are concerned about the church, want to be part of the church, want to be committed. I meet a lot of Christian men who have all of that going for them and THEN I see how they manage their careers.
And it's let's go down to Egypt and make a good deal. Watch the deal. "And it came about, when they came near them," in verse 11 of Genesis 12, "when they came near to Egypt he said to Sarai, his wife, 'Hey look, I know you are a beautiful woman.,'" Now hold on here just a second, you know the last time I was standing in the customs line was really not the time for me to tell my wife how beautiful she is. You know it's basically OK, let's get the passports together; let's get through this thing as fast as we can. And there is just a warning signal here that you women need to pay attention to and that is, anytime your husband gets, you know, lovey-dovey at the wrong time, watch out! The problem is, you know, you love this guy and when he says that to you, whether it's the right time or the wrong time, you know what happens to you.
"You're a beautiful woman. It will come about when the Egyptians see you", in verse 12, "they will say to you. This is his wife and they will kill men but they will let you live." Well Abram, why are you taking your wife into this circumstance? Why are you doing this? Well, look man, I've got this livestock; I've got this three hundred man private army I've got to take care of; I've got, I've got, I've got all of this wealth invested; I' have all of this on the line. I have to provide. I've got this nephew of mine I have to take care of. I have to provide for my family. Don't you understand that?
Well, what about God? Well, when we have some rainfall, then I'll, you know, I'll go back! "Please say you are my sister so that it will go well with me because of you." Now that word "well" by the way is a very significant word in verse 13, Genesis 12:13. If you will look at Genesis 12:1-3 you will find that God makes an agreement with Abram. It's a one-sided agreement. It's God's unconditional commitment to the man. It tells him to go from his country, from your relatives, from your father's house a land which I will show you. I will make you a great nation. In verse 2 it says "I will bless you." Genesis 12:13 the word "well" is the same exact word as the word "bless" in Genesis 12:2. What's Abram doing? He is getting a blessing. But he's not trusting God for it. He's not trusting God for it. God is not his career manager. Oh, he's trusting God for his family where they live; he's trusting God for the movement of his family from one part of the world to another; he's trusting God up to a point. But now as a leader he is failing, because when it comes to his career management, he is not asking God, "What do you want me to do about my career? What do you want me to do about my investments? What do you want me to do about our financial security as a family? What do you want me to do?" And instead he's saying to his wife, "Say you are my sister."
Oh by the way you know she was his half-sister in an interesting situation, one we wouldn't have today, but she was his half-sister. On the other hand, she was his whole wife. A technical issue of course. I mean, we must understand that this is half-sister, whole wife. I mean. Yes!
"And it came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw the woman was very beautiful." He was not having illusions. He knew he married a beautiful woman. "And Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house." He is moving to make her his wife. "He treated Abram well," verse 16, "for her sake. Gave him sheep, and oxen, and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels. But the sovereign Lord struck Pharaoh in his house with great plagues and Pharaoh says," in verse 18, 'What is this you have done to me? Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say 'She's my sister.' I took her for my wife. Here's your wife; take her and get out of here!' And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him and they escorted him away."
You know the primary factor here is? Abram becomes the missing man here because of his personal ambition. He wants to be successful. He says to his wife, "Your looks for my life. Your assets to save my skin and insure my success. Your beauty, your charm, your wit, your loyalty for my pleasure." Now none of us is doing this. But how much of the stress of the marriage at times do we just dump on our wives?
The first several years we were married, well let me back up. When I met Lynna and we were dating, she was at that point in time in training to be a medical assistant and she finished that program and we got married. And she got a job here in Dallas and I found out not only could she basically run a doctor's office, not only could she do lab work, not only could she stick people with needles, not only could she process various kinds of tests and make appointments, but she could also keep books. And that's great because the last thing I wanted to do was to mess with the checkbook. So, that was hers. That was hers. She could do that.
That was hers. So she took it. So about every three months I would come around and ask her, "OK, what kind of shape are we in?" And every time I had a conversation with her about money she cried. About 5 years into the marriage I asked her one day, "Why do you cry every time we talk about money?" Only 5 years into the marriage. You know, one would think that two or three times one might wake up! And she says to me, crying, "Because you accuse me of mismanaging our money." Well it never entered my dumb, thick head that that was a possible message I could send. She had this skill; I was busy finishing seminary, moving, getting a church started, getting everything underway. You know, gotta study, gotta prepare, gotta plan, gotta put this thing together, gotta get these things started, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta, GOTTA. Just presume on her.
We do a very intense program at Dallas Seminary for couples who come and spend 6 days with us and we use a tool called Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis. You may have been through it. With the TJTA there's nine different things that that test evaluates. It's not a test on which you make any major decisions. We use it in pre-marital as well as post-marital work, counseling and so forth. Never make a decision based on that. That's only a window into which you look and then or a doorway into the relationship and you ask a lot of questions and then you make decisions, but never a decision made on the basis of that kind of an analysis.
But still in all there's some fascinating things that's on there and one of the things that's on there is the impulsive-disciplined axis. Very fascinating to see. It's not constant but it's very interesting to see in how many marriage you've got men who are fundamentally impulsive and women who are basically disciplined. Now the opposite is also true, but it still is very interesting to see. And most of our marriages when they come to spend time with us, they're probably about 15 years old, 10 to 15 years old and it's very, very interesting because you look at that piece of paper and you know what you say? You say, "He's dumping everything and she's carrying it all. She is running around after him picking up everything he's dropping. He's dropping financial decisions; he's dropping time management; he's dropping in-laws; he's dropping major issues about children; he is dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping and she is picking it all up and she is carrying it all." And you can just see them and in my mind's eye I can see them: he's running, rushing to do this, pursue his career, be successful, do all these things, drop that, drop that, drop that and she grabs it and picks it up, grabs it and picks it up, grabs it. Gradually she's falling behind because she can only carry so much. And it's amazing how when you bring that up it's like a dam breaks and a flood comes. The anger that's there because she's been used. She has not become Pharaoh's wife but it's your loyalty for my success. See there are a lot of modern Abrams.
I'm not personally a believer in defined roles in marriage. I'm really not. I'm a believer in certain very core essential realities. Husbands are to lead with love. They are to provide emotional stability; they are to help their wives find the difference between up and down; they are the gravity within the relationship. And the research tells us that the most successful career woman in America who marries a husband, marries the husband to find that emotional stability in that man. It has nothing to do with that woman's ability to go out and be a success in business. It has nothing to do with that. It has nothing to do with if she's a good engineer or medical doctor or a nurse or a salesperson or a technical person of some kind. It has nothing to do with whether she's brilliant in math or sensitive in psychology. It has nothing to do with any of that; all of that just goes all the way aside when you get married. When you get married a woman marries a man to be an emotional strength and stability and for a source of encouragement and to have courage within the marriage. That's what marriage is about.
But men don't marry for that reason. Men marry to have somebody to adore them and admire them, stroke them and, and other things, better than that. Men really do want, in our hearts, to be the man at home. We just don't know how.
Learn from Abram, the first, the lessons we are going to learn from him. And the first lesson is this: set aside as men, we must set aside our personal ambition, to come home and lead by serving. As men we must protect our wife from exposure to the stresses and pressures and demands of a marriage that they were never meant to carry. You know the problem with Lynna and me is not that she can add and I can't. That is totally beside the point. The problem is that I didn't provide the leadership to give her the sense of direction needed so she knew what to do with the addition. That was the failure. The failure was not in saying you have a skill and we have a time management issue within our marriage. So you invest your skill this way. The failure was in my not being there to understand what was happening day by day by day by day. To understand what it meant to manage our money. That was the failure. A serious failure in leadership. Now, I hope gentlemen, that those of you who are math whizzes run the whole thing and have made great success out of your money. Do not miss my point. Because most of us as modern American men are in some way exposing our wives to stresses and tension they were not meant to bear because we fail to trust God, especially in the management of our careers. What is your career costing your wife? That's the real question.
I gave you a specific so you might have something concrete to consider. But the real question is this: what is your career costing your wife that she shouldn't be paying? Secondly how will you choose to trust God so your wife stops paying that price?
Father, I ask that for each of us as men there is an overwhelmingness about what it is we're doing. Being a husband is beyond us and that is why we wrestle with this and why we throw sometimes so much of our energy in other directions because these are things we know we can do, we know how to do. We've even been successful at them or they mean so much to us we need to be successful at them. But in this whole process how to be the godly man you have called us to be when we come home; that's the struggle for us. Teach us from this man Abram. Teach us. Help us to learn. To Your glory and in Your name. Amen.