Source for this image here.
In our home, most every Saturday afternoon between the end of August and the beginning of May is given over to football. The listening to, or watching of it, mostly on the radio or TV but sometimes actually at a game. It's true to say that football is one of the greatest passions of the menfolk in our family.
Now I know that there are a great many ladies who would agree, that their Saturday afternoons too are dominated by this particular theme. Football is of course known in England as "the beautiful game", and certainly the adoration that some men feel for their team, does indeed border on love! I know that Papa Bear and Cubby Bear both feel very passionate about their football, and you can be sure that on Saturday evenings, after the football is finished, their mood will be measured by how well their team did that day.
As a child, growing up in a very large family with a great many more sisters than brothers, I was not really all that much aware of football. My own dad did not care much for it, and although my brothers were interested, they were not nearly as keen on it as Papa Bear, who grew up in a home with only brothers and no sisters and was kicking a football, so the rumour goes, before he was even a year old! Growing up with such a passion for the game it was only natural that he would want his sons to have the same interest and so when Cubby arrived, Papa Bear was delighted to teach his wee lad all that he knew, and to have him develop the same enthusiasm. It was so cute when he took Cubby to his first football match, aged 3, dressed in a miniature version of his dad's football shirt! The team our family supports is not the local one, but of course once a year, our team does play here (when both the local team, and our's, are playing in the same league, as they are just now) and so at least once a year Papa and Cubby Bear get to watch the football "live".
However during the rest of the football season, that doesn't stop them supporting their team just as ardently! Little Bear and I have learned that on football days there are certain rules that must be observed. Whilse the football is on, we know not to disturb them. We also know that during half-time, a snack is always very much appreciated. And if the game doesn't go "our" way, commiseration may be offered - but only when asked for. We've learned never to say "bad luck" to them, when their team loses! We've also learned not to make any comments or observations about the game whilse it is being played - I learned that a very long time ago! Before Papa Bear and I were first married I remember watching the football on TV with him and saying something like "aren't they cold?" as I watched the players race about over the muddy pitch in the pouring rain. That comment didn't go down very well!
It's easy to think that because we don't share the same passion for the football as the menfolk in our family, their interest is something that we shouldn't take seriously. We might find the football boring (I know I did, when Papa Bear and I were newlyweds), or trivial, and transfer our views into negative reactions to our menfolk's interest in it because it is hard for us to comprehend. We might also become impatient when they seem to be "wasting" time on weekends and evenings, watching or playing football, when we think that there might be other occupations that they could engage with instead. Even if our menfolk don't have a passion for football, it's likely there are other sports or hobbies that they feel just as absorbed with, and our reaction to these can be the same. We think it's irritating - and we let our feelings show.
This is quite counter to Scripture's teaching for us wives. It may seem that in matters as simple as a difference in interests, we can be allowed to have our own opinions, to disagree with our husbands and even disrespect them when they engage in activities we think are unimportant. We can justify our behaviour by telling ourselves that this isn't really what God means when he wants us women to be "in subjection" (1 Peter 3: 5) to our husbands, and to do him "good and not evil" (Proverbs 31: 12) all the days of our lives. We tell ourselves that we reserve that honour, respect and obedience for the big things, like going to Church, being a homemaker and helpmeet, dressing to please him and such. "Little" things like disagreeing over his leisure activities doesn't count.
Well, in fact it does. In fact when God tells us wives that we are to submit unto our own husbands (Ephesians 5: 22), He means in all things - even the tiny details! If you read further down this Chapter you will see that Paul enlarges on this command by likening a wife's subjection to her husband, to the obedience that the Church has to Christ -
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing" (Ephesians 5: 23 - 24).
You'll notice at the end of that second verse I have quoted above, the words in every thing. Yes, that means EVERYTHING. If our husbands want to watch a football match on TV when we would prefer that they spend their afternoon out walking with us, or playing with the children, or fixing the car, then we must learn to keep quiet - to "count it all joy" (James 1: 2) and be "slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1: 19). My mam has a lovely phrase for this - "keep sweet", she use to say to us girls, when she wanted us to model this behaviour. I love that phrase! It minds me of our "meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3: 4) that should be "hidden" in our hearts, not worn like "outward" apparel or adornments. I have learned to keep the precious jewel of sweetness locked in my heart, along with the beautiful Bible passages that I've quoted above, where it may soften my thoughts, feelings and words, whenever I'm tempted to think that my way is better than Papa Bear's, so that my "ornament" may be my outward meekness, seasoned from within.
Now by this I don't mean that us wives should be doormats. It doesn't mean that we should sit, silently simmering, whilse our husbands happily watch their TV, enjoy their sports broadcasts and spend all afternoon at the stadium, supporting their beloved team. Keeping sweet, my mam taught me, is a matter of the heart, not the mind. And the best, and easiest way, that I have learned to truly sweeten my feelings - is to change my ugly thoughts and reactions, into loving ones. Instead of feeling left out, I've learned to join in! Early on in our marriage I decided that I would try to find out as much as I could about Papa Bear's football team, so that I could understand why he loved it so much. I learned about the rules of the game, the history of his team, the different characteristics of the players. I discovered about the area where the football ground is situated, and some of the tales about famous people from the past connected with the team. And in so doing, I was amazed to discover that a real interest began to develop! Yes, I replaced my feelings of boredom and irritation which prevailed on Saturday afternoons in the winter months, to ones of enthusiasm and excitement! And although I'll never feel quite as passionate about our football team as my husband and son do, I can honestly say - and so can Little Bear, who feels the same way - that I really enjoy our Saturdays too! We all 4 of us settle down to watch the football, and we all 4 celebrate and commiserate together, knowing that our shared enjoyment of the "beautiful game" is yet one more thread that binds our small family so closely together. Little Bear and I will never love football like our menfolk do. But we've learned to appreciate that it is God's will for us, that in every thing - even football matches - we can still please Him, when we do as He commands us.