Okay men, here’s the good news…chivalry still gets style points! In a world where the distinctive line blurs between male/female, women still love their men to be manly. The plain truth is that women and men need the seasoning each gender brings to the table. We are completely equal and yet totally different. Real men love to have their life flavored by a good woman. And women need their man to be THE man - it’s a required spice of life, just ask most women.
There is a "code of conduct” that became popular as the Titanic was sinking into deadly waters. The mad scramble on its listing decks was to get as many women and children into life rafts as were possible. The code is branded into history - “Women and Children First”! This code of conduct that played out on that fateful night of April 14, 1912 is what makes the story epic. Imagine if it was “each man for himself” or “each man did what was right in his own eyes”. This would just be another tragic watery grave of shame. But the Titanic lives on because of heroism, valor and chivalry, more than almost any other reason. This code has roots that reach back thousands of years. God himself cooked up the code of chivalry and respect for women and children. It’s the rightful order of things. And when we get the order out of whack, we lose a wonderful story and gain only shame. We need a revival of the code. And that revival needs to begin with you - soon you’ll have an epic tale that someone else will tell.
#1 "...a man shall leave his father and his mother."
Sometimes things grow best, right after a fresh cut. Pruning is one of those universal metaphors of life. If you want more grapes, put a knife to the branches. If you need a stronger army, trim the ranks. If you desire to see more muscle, burn that fat. It’s no accident that God calls men to sever ties with family. Because the healthiest growth between a husband and wife requires getting some distance from the family tree.
Yes, it is possible to get distance from mom and dad without dishonoring them. In fact, we must cut ourselves loose without cutting ourselves off. And love for our parents has no strings attached. Men, when we calculatedly do this, it sends a clear signal to our bride, “I’m-your-man”. Real men take the first cut. They demonstrate that this is a new day. Men send a powerful message of love for their bride when they walk her away from his tribe to start a new tribe. Intimacy and adventure are two huge benefits when men are willing to make the "first cut”.
Some of us got this right away. But for some of us men, it takes decades to realize that we never made that first cut–we never really severed that relationship with our parents and it's hurt our marriage. Don’t condemn yourself another minute. God never wastes a thing and every courageous decision is followed by waves of God’s favor. But what does is look like to cut ourselves loose? Here are a few categories to think through, you may have more.
Cut Allegiances - We’re called to honor our father and mother, not defend them. As tough as it is to let down the old family flag, real men raise a new one.
Cut Traditions - This is probably a huge list but you have to set them all down. Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t pick a few old traditions back up, it just means that you’re cutting them loose long enough to let you and your wife do some cherry picking of the ones you want in the new tribe.
Cut Cords - Dependence cords are like umbilical cords for adults. Here’s the good news, men. It’s tougher to admit you have dependence cords than it is to cut them. Once you come to grips with all the ways you depend on good ole’ mom and dad, the sooner you can cut them loose. You may need to bare down, dependence cords grow strong over time.
Go ahead, make that first cut, your marriage will thrive!
#2 "...and hold fast to his wife."
Every woman wants to be held. And when a man’s wife senses at the core of her being that we’re holding fast to her, there’s no cap to how rich and intimate the relationship can become. When we put a ring on our bride we make a covenant before God that she is in first place and she'll stay there "until death do us part". This is why marriage is such a weighty decision. The moment we say, "I do" there is a shift that must occur in our heart and mind that is consistent with God’s plan and our pleasure. Every other earthly relationship can only compete for second place and beyond. God has established the rightful slot for our bride–first place.
But our woman needs more than just knowing she's first, she has to feel it. The more deeply a woman feels that her place is secure in your heart, the more she'll flourish. The greatest investment we can make in life is placing deposits in our wife's soul that fill her with unshakable confidence. And the return on this investment is staggering. Every act of love, all the creativity, and every bit of energy we pour into our wife will come flooding back to us in ways we've not even imagined. But a man can’t wait for his woman to move. Real men go first. We need to plant our flag, and be poised to tell anyone who may wonder how much we value our wife; “my bride comes before anything or anyone else on this planet.”
So let’s get real practical. There are at least three big areas in every man’s life that will compete for first place. But our wife must always come before any one or any-thing.
Before Our Career - Our wife is the ultimate sounding board and career coach. She may have limited working knowledge of your expertise or skill set, but she knows you better than anyone else knows you. And more than any other person, she has a vested interest in you winning in your work. But no matter how fulfilling work becomes, never let your woman fall from first place, even a close second.
Before Our Kids - Kids are a blessing from God. But the greatest gift we can give them is to never let them take moms place–first place. When we hold fast to our wife, it’s like having a strong axel at the center of our home–no matter how bumpy and rough the ride gets with the kids, the wheels will never come off. Even after the kids leave home, your love will roll on.
Before Our Friends - You better believe your friends have a vital role. They can help keep you balanced, accountable, encouraged and even somewhat normal. But the most vital role a friend plays is to help keep you stay tight with your wife. Hang close with those friends who value most that they can never take the place of your wife–first place.
Chivalry says, “Babe, you’re in first place”. And wise men aim to make her feel it.
#3 “…and he praises her."
The power of words is without limits. A heart can be crushed or a heart can be healed, and it all turns on a few simple words. The easiest thing to see in another person is their faults, even though faults are the toughest thing to find in us. So the work of a man is to dig below the surface, to find in his wife her greatest attributes–every woman has them. Chivalry is the result of a man who looks below surface irritants, who navigates around the many obvious faults and mines out those qualities about our wife that are truly worthy of praise. And when a man has these choice qualities in hand, he holds them up in front of her and says “you are first class, babe. Let me show you and tell you why”.
This is a tough discipline for any man. It’s most easy to focus on failings–that comes naturally. To have thoughts of your wife that are full of affection can warm your heart but, if it’s never spoken, can leave her heart cold. And broad, general statements of praise can feel like a generic greeting card–cheap and unmoving. So real men take the initiative. We don’t wait for a mutual praise session; we start a praise session, because “he praises her.” Wise and chivalrous men do this work because the payoff is amazing. What we say about our wife will directly impact the trajectory of her life. A genuinely spoken word of praise can give birth to several more attributes that are primed and ready to grow if watered with encouragement. When a woman feels like she’s first class, things we’ve never seen begin to blossom.
But there are three concentric circles of praise for our bride. Praise must begin from the inside and work its way out.
Private Praise - Tell her when you’re all alone how much she means to you. A godly woman doesn't need to be praised in front of people. She needs most to be praised in front of you. One word of praise spoken alone but straight to her heart holds more power than pages of praise spoken before men.
Family Praise - Nothing can honor our wife or help our kids more than a man who praises his wife in front of his children. With each word of praise, it’s like branding a legacy of life and love into the doorposts of our home. When our kids see dad giving mom praise, it’s only natural that they’ll learn to do the same.
Public Praise - There comes a time when we can go public with praise. It’s powerful when praise is the overflow of what she already knows we believe. Public praise is not for mending what is broken in private or for making up for what we’ve not said when we’re alone. Real men let praise flow in public as a final relational topping on a praise party that began in private.
A woman measures our class when we treat her like she’s first class. Chivalry lives beyond what the average guy can deliver. It’s work, but praise is worth all the investment.
#4 “…he humbled himself"
Humility isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a posture of strength. Real men need to retool what we believed to be true about women. God’s economy is so up side down from what we learned in the locker room. And the way a woman is truly loved is so radically counter to the pick-up/hook-up strategies on the streets today. The most powerful posture we can take in our marriage is to initiate in humility. Be the first one down with a humble heart and your marriage will thrive–it’s the way of a leading-loving servant…it’s the way Jesus loved us.
A humble husband is a turn-on to any godly woman. And humility isn’t a spiritual gift; it’s a spiritual choice. When the husband is first down and willing to take a knee of humility before God and his woman, it’s a stroke of leadership genius and the truly humble man never intended for it to be that way. When we humble ourselves like Christ, we are aimed at a huge marital win. When we’re willing to be the "first down” in a posture of true humility we send a signal that tenderness of heart is to be cherish and valued. And when two people go to their knees together, it’s our power. Here’s the only real kicker, men, we need to be the "first down".
But what does humility look like? It’s more than words. Humility has actions, that when in motion, proves to your wife, “he’s the real deal”! Here are a few big ones:
Teachable - The first test for true humility is teachability. If a man claims to love God and his bride but has nothing to learn, he’s a fraud. I know that sounds tough but it’s true. But we can change and become genuinely humble. It involves coming to grips with the fact that we don’t have all the answers and that we need help from others. Teachability is the greatest evidence of true humility.
Vulnerable - Jesus did it and great husbands follow in his footsteps. Jesus was honest enough with someone that his battles with temptation came into the light and his struggle with going to the cross became known. Vulnerability is the mark of a man who admits his humanity and knows the power of being honest with his struggles.
Help-able - Yep, I made a word. But God gave us our wives to encourage us, see around corners, and basically "assist someone who is otherwise incapable”. That’s the rough definition of Helpmate. Our wife has qualities and attributes that we desperately need. Be help-able and it’s a true sign that you’re humble.
Chivalry looks best when we’re on our knees, not cowering like wimps but being fueled by God in a posture of need. Be the first down and soon your wife will join you. It’s a powerful place to be.
Some things of God are a mystery. Chivalry is not one of them. God lays out a compelling vision that is a practical and spiritual turn-on for any woman. Live these out and it can turn any marriage around.