Spouses Are Called to Protect One Another
It was the slap heard around the world.
Vanessa and I had just finished watching actor Will Smith’s Oscar-nominated performance in an excellent biographical sports drama, King Richard. We then turned to Google to see if he had won his first Academy Award and…wow! Definitely not what we were expecting to see.
We watched the exchange between Smith and comedian Chris Rock and were slack-jawed in response – could this be for real?
What transpired was empathy, outrage, surprise, even shock!
And I also asked myself, “What would you have done?”
A few years’ back, Vanessa served as the women’s ministries director for a 300-church district of the denomination we were a part of at the time. She carried out her role with her usual dedication and excellence. As a part of it, she had public duties to report on her many activities and functions via social media outlets.
She posted a photo on Facebook and a man from the church we attended at the time took it upon himself to comment on the picture, saying something to the effect of “Looks like she’s promoting herself - that’s all I see.”
I only get mad two or three times a year. This was one of them.
I was incensed - I called our church and asked for the man’s phone number.
I called him up and he didn’t even say “Hello” before launching into a profuse apology with some ridiculous reasons why – including peer pressure. That didn’t wash, y'all – the man was 65 years old.
We had a short but very productive conversation.
He then called Vanessa and left her a message of apology.
I’m in no way trying to portray myself as an ideal protector. There are times when my wife has asked me, “Why didn’t you say something?” I will say that as an articulate, passionate and godly Type A personality, she handles her business very well. But I absolutely have a God-given responsibility to be her protector. And she has a responsibility to be mine.
As a protector, a spouse is to guard their mate’s heart. If I’m ever the subject of idle gossip in a circle that Vanessa is in, I’m certain she will squash that talk immediately. I also know that she is not going to “dog me out” behind my back. I know she speaks well of me, sometimes in an undeserved fashion. I am far more Clark Kent than I am Superman.
What would I have done in Will’s place? I think I would have leaned over to my wife, hugged her and told her how beautiful she was. When I won the award just a few minutes later, I would have told the world the same and perhaps - perhaps reprimanded an old friend for a tasteless joke. Certainly, in private, I would have spoken with my friend and let him know that the joke was tacky and tasteless. I’m not excusing Chris Rock…but isn’t that what comedians do?
A lot of people shared my opinion of the moment. Others did not.
Spousal protection takes on many forms and it’s not always an easy task. In a marriage, God is doing a new thing! If your mate is being difficult with you, it may be hard to be a protector in the moment, but it’s still the right thing.
A recent story I read illustrates the point of protection.
Carlos and Rosa were a married couple working for the same boss, Gary. This story is from Gary’s spot-on perspective.
The couple was in Gary’s office, again late to work one morning. Carlos immediately blurted out in his defense that they were late because of Rosa. Her face fell after her husband’s words.
Gary told Carlos that he should have said “I’m sorry we’re late” and not thrown his wife under the bus like that. He said that in a few years Carlos might not even remember Gary’s name but every night, he goes home with Rosa. Instead of worrying how he might look in the boss’s eyes, he should have protected his wife’s reputation.
He then turned to Rosa and told her that Carlos could learn to be a protector. He then said that Carlos’s father had ingrained in his son the need to be on time and it really bothered him to be late. It was a core value of his - in his DNA. He said Rosa knew the starting time for work.
Carlos had protected his reputation more than his wife. Rosa was more concerned about her appearance instead of how it made Carlos look and feel. Both sides neglected to cherish each other - to put one another first. Each of them should have done better.
“Protecting” your spouse tells you to look to their interests first, and not your own (Philippians 2:4).
Marriage is the laboratory where this grand experiment is tried and tested, again and again.
One note of caution – protecting your spouse should never be misinterpreted as a call to cover their sin or wrongdoing. If one spouse is physically abusing another, or committing sexual sin and exposing their mate, then want to be “covered” by not telling someone, that spouse is wrong. That is not acceptable behavior. But if a spouse is truly repentant and that is put into practice by honestly dealing with an issue – if they are in a support group, or a 12-step program, or counseling – then protection is appropriate as much as it possible. Sometimes, spiritual guidance in a confidential setting may be required in making that decision.
I know that my reputation matters to Vanessa. But I also know that my spiritual health before an all-knowing God matters most to her – and her spiritual health matters most to me.
In Will Smith’s acceptance speech minutes later that fateful night, he disclosed the consoling words of wisdom that fellow Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington had shared with him after the incident. Washington told him, “At your highest moment, be careful. That's when the devil comes for you."
Denzel is so right.
In the Old Testament (I Kings 18), the prophet Elijah challenged King Ahab and 450 false prophets of Baal to a spiritual duel. The false prophets failed miserably and then Elijah called down God’s power in spectacular fashion. God literally rained down fire from heaven!
He ended the duel by killing all the false prophets and then praying for rain for the land in a drought-stricken time (3-1/2 years!)
God delivered again in thunderous fashion with rain on a day of resounding victory for Elijah.
Then Ahab’s wife, the wicked queen Jezebel, sent word to Elijah that she was going to kill him the same way those false prophets were killed - and within 24 hours.
Elijah, coming off a great victory, was terrified and ran for his life, even asking God to kill him! God, ever-merciful and gracious, encouraged and strengthened the prophet with food and rest. Jezebel? Well, she ultimately was thrown out of a window by her own servants and became Puppy Chow.
I don’t know how I would have responded in Will’s place that night at the Academy Awards – I believe I would have done the right thing. In the meantime, while it is day, let me do all I can to protect my amazing spouse. When someone feels protected, they feel loved and they feel cherished. For God loved the world…
I’m grateful that He loves and cherishes me, and I gladly follow His lead