|Courtesy LDS Media Library|
I ran a race Saturday morning and as I neared the finish line, I was surprised to see my wife standing just off the course, ready to take a picture. I had shown up alone before six to pick up my race packet and I thought I’d be by myself that morning—getting up early is definitely not my wife’s favorite thing to do—but there she was in living color. When I ran a little further, there was our youngest daughter yelling, “Daddy!”
Do I need to tell you how it made me feel to see them there? I finished my race much stronger than I expected.
My wife has always motivated me to be my best self. I have some wonderful, lifelong male friends whom I love and admire, but nothing can compare to the powerful influence of an authentic woman on a man. Yes, I really believe this. Here’s a case in point.
I recently read a post from And So I Fight entitled “A True Christmas,” a story of reconciliation between the author Cherae and her husband Brandon. They had been alienated for some weeks when Brandon’s struggles with pornography and infidelity came to light. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
We opened Christmas presents and ate some lunch and then Brandon and I headed to my parents study to talk. I asked him what his thoughts and hopes were between us. He told me he knew that our family would be together and that things were going to work out. Tears started streaming down my face as I gently nodded my head and silently agreed with him. I then felt impressed to tell him that I will be there waiting for him when he is clean. I’ve never seen him shed so many tears. I told him of my pleadings with my Heavenly Father and what the answers to those pleadings were. He continued to cry. In that moment I was again so greatly reassured by my Father in Heaven that everything would work out and that WE would be okay. I hugged him. I didn’t plan it, and it caught both of us off guard but it was the most full of love hug I had ever experienced with him to that point in our lives. We continued to openly talk about our future together, felt the spirit confirm all that we had discussed, and shed many more tears. The Christmas I had dreaded and feared the most turned out to be the best Christmas I had ever experienced. (Emphasis mine.)
Cherae’s promise—”I will be waiting for him when he is clean”—well, that captures it for me, particularly her vision of and patient belief in her husband’s potential. It’s what makes a man explode with purpose. It gives him a reason to do and a reason to be.
I don’t know of any greater or more motivating force for a man than the tender, against-all-odds love of his wife. There is simply nothing to compare to it. It’s a force that holds couples and families together. I believe in this way a wife is like our Savior and in a sense, she is a savior to her husband.
A bold assertion to be sure but there is some strong evidence to support it. To find that evidence, we have to go a ways back—to Genesis 2:18 to be exact.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
The phrase “help meet for him” is translated from the Hebrew ezer kenegdo (כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ עֵ֖זֶר) but biblical scholar R. David Freeman claims that this and similar translations of this phrase are incorrect:
I believe the customary translation of these two words, despite its near universal adoption, is wrong. That is not what the words are intended to convey. They should be translated instead to mean approximately “a power equal to man.” That is, when God concluded that he would create another creature so that man would not be alone, he decided to make “a power equal to him,” someone whose strength was equal to man’s. Woman was not intended to be merely man’s helper. She was to be instead his partner. (“Woman, a Power Equal to Man,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 09:01 Jan/Feb 1983, 56–58.)
According to Freedman, the word ezer originally meant “to rescue” and a similar form meant “to be strong.” Eventually, these two phonemes (sounds) were combined into one grapheme (a unit of written language) that over time was interpreted simply as help. But something got lost in that translation. He goes on to say that the word ezer occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible, and of those, it is translated eight times as savior.
The root of the word kenegdo means “equal.” Freedman would prefer that the phrase be translated “a power or strength equal to him.” I love that.
Recently I heard a man explain that he was about to leave the Church and his wife out of frustration with himself and his habits, but when his wife told him, “I can’t imagine my life without you,” those words and the genuine love they conveyed stopped him in his tracks. He relented. That couple is still together, happily married and strengthening each other in the gospel.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not thought much about going on a mission until he met Jeanene Watkins. She told him one evening, “When I marry, it will be in the temple to a returned missionary.” That changed his plans. He soon after left on a mission to Uruguay. Jeanene went on a mission too while he was gone and two weeks after Elder Scott returned home, they were married in the Manti Temple.
It’s the light of a righteous woman’s being, a magnetic force that draws a man away from self-doom. It sharpens and transforms him. It saves him.
Maybe you think I’m taking the point too far. I don’t dare take it as far as I’d like.
I’m not trying to say that saving men is a woman’s sole purpose. I am not saying that it’s a woman’s “role.” Heavens no. I can hardly figure out my own role let alone anyone else’s. Actually, I hope pulling a man back from the fire is something women never have to do. But I do believe that they have a power to influence men in miraculous ways, if they choose to or if they need to. And they often do.
If you are a wife whose husband is grappling with addiction or transgression, know this: what he really wants more than anything is your tenderness and your gentle reassurance, especially if he has fallen. He wants you to respect him, even if he doesn’t deserve it. He wants you to see his potential and to believe in him, even though he can’t see it himself. In his heart, he knows you can see what he can’t. Show him what you see and what you hope for. Show him the way. Hang on for dear life. Don’t give up if there is any chance of reconciliation. I am not saying that you should trust him when he still can’t trust himself, but hold up your desire to trust him again. It will motivate him like nothing else.
You are not the cause of his mistakes. Those are his choices. But there is nothing on earth that can influence him more to come back to you than your tenderness. From the depths of his soul, he wants the real, pure you. Let it shine.
He doesn’t have anything else to hold onto except his weakened faith and you. You just might save him. And that, I believe, is one thing God created you for.
You can’t help anyone who doesn’t want help. No one can. But if you will be ready like Cherae to take him back when he is clean, you just might be the miracle he is hoping for. It’s worth a shot. You might just save a man from hell. You might save a generation.