It’s been over a week since Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces. In that short time the details surrounding the event have changed quite a bit. Bin Laden did have a weapon. No he didn’t. Secretary of State Clinton was horrified as she watched the whole thing go down. No she wasn’t, she just had a sinus infection. It was the Navy SEALs that pulled off the whole operation with such precision and power. Oh, no sir. It was this man and him alone. No weapons needed.
"He's had enough, Johnny!"
One of the stories about bin Laden’s capture that really stuck with me was the one about how he used his wife as a human shield once he was finally confronted by his long time enemies. For some reason, this shocked us.
“How dare he hide behind a woman like that!”
“Just who does he think he is?”
Did we expect the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, the man who has been the face of global terrorism for two decades to actually be a pretty cool guy once you get to know him? Did we expect to hear reports of SEALs entering the bin Laden kitchen just as they were hearing the man himself say, “No, it’s okay honey. I’ll get the dishes tonight. You go watch The Apprentice with the other wives”?
Regardless of how it actually happened, the story of bin Laden hiding behind his wife, using her has a human shield, disturbed us. It haunts me because I know how easy it is for me and every other man in this country to do the exact same thing. Sure, maybe you would stand up and take a bullet for your wife if some heavily armed group of men were to come into your home. But in the regular day-to-day routine of marriage and family, are you using your wife as a human shield?
You are using your wife as a human shield when you fail to be present at your home.
This can take various forms. For some men, the temptation is to load up the bass boat, hunting gear, trail bike or whatever suits their recreational fancy and take off for the weekend. Sure, one weekend every now and then isn’t a problem and can even be a good thing. But when this becomes habitual it is as if your wife is left competing with a mistress, not in high heels and a skimpy dress but one that is on the other end of a fishing hook or in the scope of a rifle.
For others, such hobbies are useless because they get in the way of work. Sadly, for many of these men, their family also gets in the way of work. Perhaps you wouldn’t dream of going away one weekend a month to hunt bear in Canada while your wife deals with the kids alone. But maybe your abandonment is more secretive. Maybe you tell yourself that leaving home every morning at 5:00 and not coming back until 8:00 six days a week is putting food on the table. What's the harm in that?
Husband, it doesn’t matter if it’s your recreation or your job. If it’s pulling you away from your role as the leader of your home you are leaving your wife and family unprotected from the temptations that come with an absentee father and husband. You are using them as a human shield.
You are using your wife as a human shield when you fail to discipline your children.
This one is dangerous because you can fall prey to it while spending plenty of time at home. You can shun all hobbies that pull you away from your family, be home every night at the same time and still hide behind your wife when it comes to dealing with 4-year-old sinners climbing the walls and peeing on their brother. As husbands, we do well to remember that our day is not over when we leave work and come home. In a very real sense, the most important part of it is just beginning.
This does not mean that you come home with your hand on your belt ready to get medieval on your kids. It does mean that if your wife stays at home she has been putting up with your precious little sinners all day long. What she needs to come through the front door at 5:00 is a rescuer, not another kid to take care of. Husband, if you fail to discipline your kids, you are hiding from their temper tantrums, rolled eyes and violent outbursts behind your wife. When it comes to discipline, are you using your wife as a human shield?
The examples of how we can use our wives as human shields could go on and on. These are just two of many. The remedy is not simply to stop enjoying your hobbies and start knocking your kids around. The real issues are love and leadership. When we read in Ephesians 5:25 that husbands are to love their wives "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” we should immediately think of the cross. The cross is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for his people (Romans 5:8). The implications here are simple yet profound. Husband, model the love of Christ by being there for your wife. Husband, model the love of Christ by serving your wife. If Jesus demonstrated his love for you by going to the cross in your place and then commands you to have that same love for your wife, you should have no problem taking care of a diaper and a whiney toddler.
Another way that Christ demonstrates his love for the church is by leading it (Colossians 1:18). Husband, have you used the old saying that says “if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” as an excused absence, releasing yourself from your role as the leader of the home? Christ’s loving leadership isn’t done from a distance (apologies to Bette Midler) and yours shouldn’t be either.
We all fail. None of us leads like we should all the time. No husband has ever always been there and no father has always handled disciplining his kids the right way. My most common prayer as a husband and father is that God would redeem the mistakes I make daily. But we must not use our past failures as fathers and husbands as excuses for more failure (Romans 6:1-2). Instead, let’s rely on the grace of the One who always leads and loves the right way. Let’s rely on the Spirit’s power as we seek to follow the example of a Father who hides behind no one but who is “my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (Psalm 28:7).