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Volume 14, Issue 4: Husbandry

Two by Six

Douglas Wilson

Normally I don't like wooden defintions, but the versatility of wood is such that there are some forms of definition that are done best with wood.

In building a house, the external walls are normally constructed from two by sixes, spaced sixteen inches apart. On one of his rare visits to our building site, the building inspector tried to talk me into spacing the studs two feet apart, but I wanted structural stability more than I wanted the improvement in insulation efficiency. But regardless, the framed wall of wood still defines the boundaries of the house.
Consequently, this wall defines, for as long as the house stands, the difference between inside and outside. This wall provides support for the trusses, which support the roof, and thereby maintain the difference between wet and dry. This wall, unlike all the other walls in the house, has two faces. On the external side, the sheathing is fastened, the housewrap attached, and then the siding. On the internal side of the same wall, the sheetrock is screwed on, just like all the interior walls. Most interior walls are solid, while this perimeter wall which defines the house is filled with windows.
Good wood has cured somewhat, and when you cut the metal bands holding a lot together, the two by sixes don't suddenly curl up like they were specialty french fries or something. They will usually have a moderate crown which can be identified by looking down the length of the wood, and it is a good idea to have the crowns all on the same side of the wall.
These two by sixes are not finish wood—no one is going to try to make cupboards out of them—and the point is for most of their value to be completely out of sight. At the same time, they are usually pine, and fresh cut pine has a delightful smell.
Husbands are a lot like these two by sixes. They have a responsibility to define the boundaries of the family—what is the difference between inside and outside. The husband and father is called to name, and know by naming, the members of his family. When Scripture requires us to refrain from coveting anything that is our neighbor's, it is assuming this kind of wooden, and very rigid, definition.
Husbands and fathers are to support the roof. Their duty of protection and provision is fundamental. Because of the support of the roof, children are warm and dry instead of cold and wet. They should grow to maturity, and in this grow to the point where they no longer take all this for granted. But when they are little, it is the father's duty to see to it that they take if for granted. A man's wife doesn't take him for granted, but she trusts and believes him—and she was there at the wedding ceremony when he promised that he would support the roof.
A husband has two sides, just like the exterior wall. The side of the wall that faces his family is very much like the other walls of the house. The sheetrock is the same, the texturing is the same, the color of the paint is the same, pictures are hung, and so on. This means that the man of the house is to live with his family as family. The face he presents to them is conducive to the warmth of life together. But unlike the other walls, six inches away from the warmth of the living room, is the hard snow or cold rain. And he has to deal with this at the same time. He presents a wall of protective siding to the world, and warmth to his family.
Some men have trouble with performing these two tasks rightly. Some have the hard protective siding facing both ways, so that they are hard against the world and hard against their own family. Others—sensitive, modern males—have sheetrock on both sides. But the sheetrock doesn't weather well. And a few men, the worst kind of all, have sheetrock against the elements and siding on the inside.
The perimeter wall has windows in it; these enable those who live in the house the pleasure of seeing the world. A husband and father is to teach. He is to show his family what the outside is like. The family should be able to look through the worldview windows he supplies, and come to see and understand what is happening outside. These windows enable the family to see, but they must perform the same protective functions that the wall does. And this calls for great wisdom—how to explain the world to the children without exposing them to it. Some men opt out and "protect" their children by leaving out the windows. Others let their kids deal with the world without protection and direction—but these are not windows, but are simply holes in the wall.
A good man isn't warped. He has cured somewhat, he is mature. Many young men believe they are ready for a family because they have come from a tree that is the right size. Freshly milled at the age of nineteen, they believe they are prepared to be built into a wall right now because their dimensions are right. They are two by six, and ten feet long, but when you cut the metal band, they still sproing all over the driveway.
It is important to remember that the two-by-six husband is not necessarily finish wood. It is far easier to get splinters from handling this wood than from the hard wood meant to build a coffee table. He is not the prettiest thing, especially with that Boise Cascade stamp on top of the knot.
This is wood that is meant to be nailed, meant to be fixed, meant to be cut. And when a saw runs through this kind of wood, the smell—an aroma of sacrifice—is one of the sweetest smells on earth.

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