Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard copyright ©2012.  Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Chapter 6: Where Marriages Go Right, Part 1: The Husband

Every time a boy is born, we should think of Genesis 2:15. The moment we see the ultrasound picture, the moment we hear the cry of a boy exiting the womb and entering the world, we should recite in our minds:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

Boys are born with a mission: to work and keep, to cultivate and guard. God put Adam on the earth, and God pushes boys out of wombs to be cultivators and guardians.

I’m the father of three boys—Cru, Hudson, and Gus. Cru entered the world at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning, a scheduled C-section because he was upside down in his mother’s womb. Less than two years later, Hudson arrived on a Sunday afternoon during the fourth quarter of a San Francisco 49ers football game. The Niners won. The night of Hudson’s second birthday, Taylor woke me up at 1:00 a.m. and we raced to the hospital, just in time for the arrival of Gus. All three Buzzard boys were born at the same hospital, delivered by the same doctor. When the doctor presented me with each of my sons, I thought of Genesis 2:15. I thought about the mission God’s entrusted to these three men in training. I thought about the twin pillars of their mission: responsibility and power. 

Responsibility

God gives men enormous responsibility. And the weightiest responsibility he gives to a man is a woman—a wife. In this union, a man’s ability to cultivate and guard is put to the greatest test. Will the man lay down his life in order that his wife may flourish? That is the question that measures a marriage. In order for the garden of marriage to be properly cultivated and guarded, a man must give more than he’s ever given. 

Many men avoid this responsibility. Some men abandon this responsibility. A few men appreciate this responsibility. No man can handle this responsibility.

This is the place to revisit what I said in chapter 3: 

It’s your fault. This is the second most important truth to learn from this book: it’s your fault. You are the husband. You are the man. And God has given man the ability to be the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to a marriage. Before you can be the best thing that ever happened to your marriage, you must see that you have always been the worst thing that happened to your marriage. If you want to change a marriage, change the man. Why? Because the man is what is wrong, and the man is what, made right, alters the course of everything.

Everybody knows there’s something wrong with men. The man problem has been in the news for decades. For decades society has told us that the problem with men is a responsibility problem—that if men acted like men, acted responsibly, things would be better. 

I disagree.

Yes, responsibility is part of the problem. The world is full of irresponsible men. Genesis 2:15 gives men a responsibility that is shirked more often than it is embraced. Ephesians 5 further defines this responsibility for husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), a verse many husbands aren’t quick to quote or execute. Responsibility is a problem, but it isn’t the heart of the problem.

The problem is power.

God gives men a mission. God commissions husbands to cultivate and guard—to date their wives. This mission requires responsibility and power. The problem with men isn’t the responsibility, the problem is men think they have the power to carry out the responsibility. 

Power

Men need to be taught about power, not responsibility. I spent the first five chapters of this book talking about responsibility so that I could spend the rest of this book talking about power. 

I bought my first car at age sixteen, a silver 1984 Toyota Tercel with one hundred thousand miles on it, an oil leak, and an aftermarket CD player. I loved that car. I kept my football pads in the trunk, and the whole car smelled like football. 

One afternoon, my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t figure it out. I had plenty of gas. The car had been running great, and I had just checked the oil. I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened. Then I realized—the battery was dead. No amount of turning the key would do anything. The power source of my engine was dead. I needed outside help.

That afternoon I got my first jump start. I waved down a truck that was passing by. The driver happened to have jumper cables. He pulled his big truck next to my small car, we popped open the hoods of our vehicles, he attached his end of the cables to his fully powered battery, and I attached my end of the cables to my dead battery. He turned on his engine and power started transferring from his truck to my car. Within a few minutes I turned the key in my ignition and, vroom vroom, my car started. I had power again. I thanked the man and drove home.

I think most men are fairly aware of their responsibility as husbands. They know they need to drive the car. But across our world men are sitting in their cars turning the key wondering why nothing is happening. Men don’t see that their battery is dead. Men don’t see that they need power from the outside, power that comes from someone else, in order to carry out the mission. 

I’ve told you the second-most-important truth to learn from this book: it’s your fault—you are the worst thing that ever happened to your marriage. You needed to hear that first. Now let’s hear the most important truth: Jesus makes men new—Jesus turns husbands like you and me into the best thing that ever happened to our marriages. 

My friend Ed hails from England. We smoke cigars together and talk about Jesus, life, and our dreams. Taylor and I enjoy going on double dates with Ed and his wife, Nicci. Ed and Nicci have a great marriage. They are a lot of fun, and they sound really smart and godly because of their British accents.

Last year, after ten years of marriage and five years of trying for kids, Nicci discovered she was pregnant with twins. Their excitement was so thick you felt like you could grab onto it and put some of it in your pocket. Ed and Nicci were giving birth to twin boys! The baby showers commenced. Nicci’s tummy grew larger.

I arrived at the hospital a few minutes after Joshua died, Ed and Nicci’s newborn son. Nicci had gone into early labor. There in the maternity ward at Stanford Hospital, Nicci gave birth to Joshua and, then, to Daniel. Joshua lived sixty-seven minutes outside of the womb. He died in his parents’ arms. Meanwhile, Joshua’s brother Daniel fought for life in the neonatal intensive care unit, with tubes and wires connected to every part of his body, a body that was the size of my hand. I’ve never felt so powerless as a pastor as the day I walked into that hospital room and wept with Ed. 

A few days later I officiated at Joshua’s funeral. I preached with wet eyes. I helped carry Joshua’s casket. I startled over the grief Ed and Nicci expressed over a lost son, the hope they carried for a living son, and the faith they exercised in a good and sovereign God. What struck me most from the funeral was Ed and the strength with which Ed loved his wife. Drained of his dreams, drained of sleep, and disoriented by death, Ed was seemed to come from outside him. It was like jumper cables were attached to him. 

There’s a saying that Ed learned from his mom. Ed used to quote it to me, and I found myself thinking about the saying as I watched Ed lead his wife through that week of hell. Ed’s mom used this saying to teach her son the true nature of responsibility. 

Responsibility: My response to his ability. 

You crush a man if you only talk to him about responsibility. You empower a man if you talk to him about responsibility—about living life in response to the power and ability of God.

Manhood, husbandry, and Genesis 2:15 were never meant to be carried out in isolation from God. God gave the first man, and God gives us men, a mission that can be completed only through dependence. God doesn’t demand men live life on the basis of their own resources; he summons us to live in confident dependence on his resources. He has the power. Our responsibility is to respond to his ability.

Jesus wakes us up to the life we were created to live—a life powered by God, not self. When Jesus gets a hold of a man, he makes a man new. He gives power. Jesus takes men with dead batteries and puts them in relationship with the living God. It’s as though men experience Genesis 2:7 all over again: 

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 

Life feels new. The breath of life, the power and Spirit of God, begins taking over the operating system of a man’s life. Trajectories change. Husbands who were stuck begin to move forward, begin to steer their marriage in a new and better direction. 

Death does this. Sometimes it takes death to show a man where true power comes from. Sometimes it takes death to make a man come alive to the real mission of manhood and marriage: living life and dating your wife in response to God’s ability, not your ability.

Ed received the power long before his son died in his arms. Ed had become a new man many years earlier. But my dad didn’t come alive until he heard the doctor’s diagnosis: “Your wife has cancer.” And my old friend didn’t come alive until he heard the bad news: “Your wife’s had an affair.” It took the news of death for these husbands to hear the news of life: real power comes from outside you, not inside you.

Men carry burdens they were not meant to carry. Like many men, my dad grew up on Simon and Garfunkel, listening to “I Am a Rock”: 

I am a rock,

I am an island. 

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

That chorus defines manhood for many men. But all this collapses the day the rock feels pain, the day the island cries. When the battery dies, when a man realizes that he’s not a rock, then he’s ready to build his life and his marriage on the real Rock. And that Rock is full of power. And that Rock feels pain. 

Take Action

1. Quit your excuses. Don’t give God or your wife (or yourself) your excuses anymore. Say sorry. Repent. Ask forgiveness. Own up to your old ways; don’t make excuses.

2. Reassess the definition of responsibility that is driving your life.

3. Ask God to make you new. 

4. Read the entire New Testament over the next three months, circling the following five words every time you spot them: power, gospel, grace, new, and life.

Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a new church plant in Silicon Valley. Buzzard has been dating his wife for nine years and is the father of three young sons. He earned an MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of Consider Jesus. He speaks widely, writes at JustinBuzzard.net, and is on Twitter @JustinBuzzard.

Publication date: August 27, 2012