When I applied for a marriage license a year after I had graduated from college, all I had to do was pay a fee.
There was no training, no video and no job description.
In spite of the fact that I lacked many of the fundamental skills on how to make a marriage work, the license was granted!
I know there are many men today who are trying to figure out exactly what God expects of them as husbands.
So I came up with a list of the things I believe are central to being a godly husband.
Be a Spiritual Leader
Your wife probably came into the marriage with some idealized image of the 2 of you beginning each day around the breakfast table with some fresh-squeezed orange juice, doing devotions together.
She imagined you leaving for work and saying, "I'll be back this evening, and we can have devotions again."
About a month into the marriage, your wife was probably thinking, What happened? Reading the Scriptures and praying together is so important. If I could rewind my marriage and start that practice earlier, I would do it in a second.
No matter how long you've been married, now is the time to develop a pattern that can work in your marriage. Remember, it's a husband who ought to initiate this.
"A man may not be a vocational theologian," says Doug Wilson, author of Reforming Marriage.
"But in his home, he needs to be the resident theologian."
Lead With Humility
The reason there is such a debate about whether men ought to be leaders in a marriage relationship is because too many men have not led with humility.
Men may be called by God to lead their wives, but our leadership should be selfless.
Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (New International Version).
Put this verse into practice, and it will solve 95 percent of the issues you face.
I have never met a woman who says, "I resist my husband's leadership even though he is very humble and Christlike."
The women I've met are craving godly leadership in their marriages.
Be a Godly, Courageous Man
First Corinthians 16:13 gives a clear definition of biblical masculinity: "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong". Before we can be godly husbands, we must be men of courage.
Wrapped up in that definition of what it means to be a man is the idea of courage.
And the essence of courage is to have such a great fear of God that you fear nothing else.
Be a Provider
The husband should bear the primary responsibility for the financial needs of the home.
In fact, 1 Timothy 5:8 says if a man fails to provide for his household, he is worse than a pagan. That's not the kind of reputation I want to have in the community.
Part of the root meaning for the word provider means "to look ahead."
A provider is one who anticipates and does the strategic planning for the household. He thinks about the goals. Not just the financial goals, but the spiritual goals and emotional goals.
In a sense, he is chief executive officer of the corporation. It's his responsibility to set the direction.
And many times his wife is the chief operating officer. The 2 of them need to unify their direction for the good of the family.
Love God More Than You Love Your Wife
After 3 years of dating Mary Ann, we began to talk about marriage. A little while later we broke up. I was devastated.
While praying one night, things became crystal clear: Mary Ann had become an idol in my life. I cared more about what made her happy than what made God happy.
It was as if God were saying, "You will have no other gods before me, and if you put something or someone else in My place, I will remove it."
In 25 years of marriage, I still run into the same problem. I keep myself in check with this question: Whom do I fear more: my wife or God?
The level of pain may be more immediate or more pronounced when I don't please my wife. Because when I don't please God, He doesn't go into the other room and get silent on me.
But God reminds me, "You do the right thing, even if, for the moment, it doesn't make her happy."
Love Her Biblically and Extravagantly
To love her biblically, we need to ask, "What is God's love for us like?" The essence of His love for us is reflected in His commitment to us and His sacrifice for us. That's what our love for our wife needs to look like too.
For me, it often means placing her needs ahead of my own. And it means that I will still sacrifice for her even when we disagree. She must be my priority.
Remember the little line in the marriage vow, "Forsaking all others, until death do us part"?
That means your relationship with your wife is more important than any other relationship -- friends, your boss or even your children.
Put simply, we must love our wives more than anything on earth; that is the essence of the marriage relationship.
D.L. Moody summed it up best: "If I want to find out whether a man was a Christian, I wouldn't go to a minister; I'd go and ask his wife.
If a man doesn't treat his wife right, I don't want to hear him talk about Christianity. What is the use of talking about salvation for the next life if he has no salvation for this life?"
This past May, Mary Ann and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Maui, Hawaii. The surroundings were incredible, but really we were just happy to be together.
Over dinner that night, we could both say that in spite of any challenges that have come our way, we wouldn't change the outcome of our shared 25 years.
That's because God has used our relationship with each other more than anything else to make us more like Christ. And ultimately, that is His purpose for marriage.