I think highly of my husband and tend to put him on a pedestal because he is more mature than I in Christ. Just a fact.
But there is a problem with pedestals and I am finding it out again. I say “again” because I have in the past put people on pedestals and it has not gone well. If you are guessing that the disaster was their inevitable falling from the perch by their own foibles, you guess wrong: Their fault was simply that they were not God.
Interestingly, I do not treat people whom I consider my spiritual equal so shabbily. The pedestal is reserved for the unfortunate whom I most highly esteem. Unfortunate, I say, because far from exalting him, it robs him. It is a setup for failure. It is a double standard in which the unspoken deal is that he is not allowed to make mistakes while I myself have liberty to do so—since I am (as is tacitly agreed) the less mature one.
So I give myself permission to say things to my husband, which if he said them to me would cause offense. See Screwtape’s demon primer for an example of this perverse dynamic:
“Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention” (The Screwtape Letters).
My husband David is different. He does not lay traps with words. It was not always this way. A 30-year heroin addiction made his entire life a deception, because truth is the casualty of addiction. A 2001 encounter with God in a county jail in solitary confinement showed him what he had become, and the view transformed his life. I have a five-year paper trail of daily correspondence, which I have combed and never found a single inconsistency in.
But my game of “You be the mature one and I’ll be the immature one” is a hellish typecasting because it locks in the parties so that no growth in the relationship is possible—or even countenanced. And when I posture myself as the less mature one and you as the more mature, I conceive these not as temporary roles but as our respective, rigid stations in life.
In this B-grade drama I create, I expect that in every situation and conversation I will play the part of the weak (since I am the tragically, albeit lovably, flawed half of our duo), and you will always be the strong (since that is your job). If you, husband, heaven forbid, should exhibit the slightest faltering, great would be my indignation.
Another pitfall of “the pedestal” is that if I am in awe of you, then when you do sin I will not recognize it as sin because I have made you—and not God’s word—my moral plumb line. I will therefore stumble right along with you. What is needed is to remove the pedestal from my eye, so that I will see clearly to help my spouse to see himself, which is what he needs from me, rather than my worship.
After considerable thought, I have arrived at two practical ways to “put off” the pedestal and “put on” godly ways of relating to the husband I esteem:
First, I take seriously my identity as one also indwelled by the Spirit and having spiritual gifts, and on whom it is incumbent to love my husband for his own good. But how can I love if I cannot see him? And how can I see him if it is always “all about me” as the chronically spiritual patient? “Un-blind me, Lord, to see my partner’s spiritual needs.”
Secondly, I give my husband permission to be a workmanship in progress, not a finished product. All double standards flee away, swallowed up in our mutual desire to bless. Here there is freedom and limitless creativity, flowing in new riverbeds and not the fetid pools of insatiable personal neediness. No more pedestals for us, just David and me walking hand in hand, facing forward.