Marriage is hard. Anyone who’s been married even a little while has been baptized into that reality. It’s the honest truth that the cotton-candy, fairy tale picture of happily-ever-after doesn’t last long and gives way to the reality of the battle for your marriage. It’s the way it should be; marriage isn’t about sentiment, it’s about a mission. Less cruise ship, more battleship. And believe me, when it’s done right, there are few things more meaningful, satisfying, and joyful than pushing back darkness side by side with the love of your life.
This morning, a friend shared a blog post called “Husbands, Kill the Foxes: 9 Foxes Your Wife Wants You to Kill” drawing from a passage in Song of Solomon (Song 2:15) which reads:
"Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards,for our vineyards are in blossom.”
The article rightly challenges husbands to defend their marriages by fighting to cultivate intimacy and destroying idols like busyness and apathy. It’s the idea we read explicitly in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Eph 5:25)
However…I want us to take a look at the full context of that passage and understand the real challenge presented in that poem:
The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice. 10 My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, 11 for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.…15 Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:8-15
If you follow the quotation marks, if you read the content of what is spoken, it becomes clear that the HUSBAND is speaking to his wife (remember that “beloved” is the name used for the husband).
What does this mean? Well, it certainly doesn’t contradict the ideas of the article I mentioned. Husbands ARE called to fight for their marriages. It’s explicitly stated that husbands are called to lay down their lives for the sake of their wives. However, this passage is really a plea from a husband to his wife asking her to kill the foxes that are attacking the vineyard of their marriage. So what does that mean?
I’m a husband. And reading this scripture was really challenging for me. Primarily because as a man, I believe that it’s my responsibility to do the killing for my wife. I mean, seriously, “be a man and go get the gun”? Heck yeah! Let’s go! Rifle or shotgun? But if I’m honest (and I challenge every husband to be honest with themselves and their wives), it’s often our pride and arrogance, this image of the huntsman husband, that keeps us from approaching our wives with humility, asking them to fight for us.
Last night, Brandee and I had to sit down and hash out some pretty serious stuff that was coming at us in our marriage. Maybe it’s because our church is going through a marriage series (and I’m preaching on marriage this Sunday) that the enemy is taking shots at us, but eventually I had to get to a place where I confessed to her many of the lies that were screaming at me in my head, some dark places those voices were luring me into, and my lack of strength to fight them.
“I want to lead you,” I said. “But I can’t right now. I know that doesn’t sound impressive but I need you to know that. I’m really weak and I need you…” Husbands… put your pride aside. Your wife is not your enemy. It doesn’t make you less of man. If anything, it may be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done. Ask her to pick up the gun and go fox hunting.
I won’t lie, I was trying really hard after thinking about this idea of wives hunting foxes to come up with a list of threats that wives need to “kill” in order to defend their marriages. It’s nice and tidy and way easier to read… but life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t a checklist of things to look out for. Your marriage can’t be distilled down to SWOC analysis. So instead of that, let me tell some of the ways my wife has killed foxes in our marriage:
I know it’s a simple one but sometimes fox hunting isn’t about blasting away with a rifle, but laying down traps and putting up fences. There is no greater blessing for a husband than a wife that prays for him. A wife that prays is a wife that understands that her husband needs the Holy Spirit to lead him, affect him, and change him. No one can change a person’s heart. Only God can. Knowing my wife prays for me gives me confidence that she loves me, God loves me, and God is faithful to me because I know he listens to her.
This is a hard one for sure, especially with SO MUCH out there about how the family comes first and husbands need to prioritize their marriages. The reality is, Brandee’s encouragement to me to go and follow the Lord, to do hard things for the sake of the kingdom is like gasoline on a fire. It fuels my faith and it builds me up as a leader. She believe in me. She believes in my call. When I get knocked down in discouragement, she’s the first one to tell me to get back on the horse. That doesn’t mean that I neglect my family, or that I’m constantly away from my wife and kids. It means that we talk together about the best ways we can spend our time. We empower each other to engage the mission of God as individuals and as a team.
Listen, being a dad is hard. It’s intimidating and humiliating. Seriously, I’m a grown man… I shouldn’t feel so helpless when Sammy and Avvy are fighting over a toy while JoJo is crying because she just blew out of her diaper and now there’s poop and tears and screaming and kicking and punching everywhere. But yeah, sometimes that’s reality. So when Brandee encourages me and affirms me at my attempts at fatherhood… moms can I tell you that there is nothing more uplifting to a young dad then when you tell them that their efforts mean the world to you, that you trust them, and that they’re doing well?
Again, nothing steals the life out of a man like the feeling that he’s a failure. When I feel myself sliding into that dark place where I feel like I have nothing to offer or I’m not strong enough to lead my family, a gentle word, a kiss, an encouraging smile might as well be grenade in a fox den. Your husband may put on a tough face, but I promise you, wives, it hides a deep insecurity and fear… and you have more power than anything in the world to build him up or tear him down.
Brandee isn’t a perfect wife. But I love her with all my heart. And she loves me. She guards the vineyard of our marriage well. I’m so grateful that when the foxes attack, she’s ready to defend it. I’m the beloved in Song of Solomon, asking my bride to kill the foxes because often times, I can’t myself.
So wife, your husband is asking you to go hunting. So be a woman and go get the gun.