Category Archives: selfishness

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 5c: a heart that devises wicked schemes

Hearts cascading into each other, gradient

As we discussed in the last post, the problems of an unclean heart are major – and we cannot solve them ourselves.  That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless, however.  There is one (and only one) cure for unclean hearts: God’s love.  Only God is able to transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts, hearts filled with love for Him and for others.

This week we’ll look at the effects of that transformation.

Some of the effects of this transformation are visible.  When we have God’s love in our hearts, we can see a difference in the way we treat others:

Through [Jesus] you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  (1 Peter 1:21-23)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  (1 Peter 3:15-16)

The verses above show that our clean hearts are often evident in our actions.  We obey God’s truth and show active love for others.  We are prepared to talk to others about our faith – but we do so with gentleness and respect.

In the last post, we discussed the close relationship also between the condition of our hearts and our words – but mostly with a focus on the negative.  In contrast, we see the positive aspects of this relationship when we have God’s love in our heart.  When His love is in our hearts, our words reflect that:

I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices (Psalm 16:8-9a)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  (Romans 15:5-7)

And, as these verses, suggest, while we are dependent on God’s grace in all of this, He does not intend for either our hearts or our mouths to be passive in this process.  The Bible regularly encourages its readers to actively employ their hearts and mouths – and all they are – in service to God:

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 5:19b-20)

In fact, the Bible teaches that both our hearts and our mouths play a part in our salvation.  Paul writes (referring to a passage from Deuteronomy),

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  (Romans 10:8-10)

And while (as Paul reminds us elsewhere) salvation is a gift from God that we can never earn, we must decide how to respond to God’s gift.  The response God calls us to begins in our hearts – but it cannot end there.  It isn’t just a feeling we get one day, and it’s not a matter of completing a church ritual.  A true belief will affect the way we live.  (As Paul also said, “‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’” (Acts 26:20).)  A heart that truly accepts the love of God will respond with loving words and actions.

Again, please don’t get caught up in rituals here, which vary from culture to culture.  What matters is that our response to God’s gift of salvation changes us inside AND outside.

And of course, the most important part of having God’s love in our hearts is the effect it has on our relationship with Him.  When we have God’s love in our hearts, we are closer to God:

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.  (Psalm 15)

As the passage above says, we can dwell with God when our hearts are right with Him.  And it is this relationship with God that provides us with assurance of our status as His beloved children:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

Furthermore, it is in this loving relationship with God that we find His joy and peace:

Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.  (1 Chronicles 16:9-11)

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:26-27)

Clean hearts – hearts transformed by God’s amazing love – are wonderful things.  However, as the last verse suggests, clean hearts can be hard to maintain.  So many things that can dirty our hearts beg for our attention.  Next week we’ll look at the problems our clean hearts face – and the resources God has provided for us in our struggle to keep our hearts clean.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 4

Last Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 2

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

 

Want to read more?

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

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(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 5b: a heart that devises wicked schemes

As we discussed last week, all of us have some issues with maintaining a clean heart.  So today we’re going to look at our hearts: where they start, the problems they face (and cause), and what God does (and wants) for our hearts.

Our hearts are naturally wicked.  They are naturally drawn to sin (selfishness), and, apart from God, they will remain in this state.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)

As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”  (Romans 3:10-12)

This problem with our hearts has consequences:

King Rehoboam established himself firmly in Jerusalem and continued as king. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.  He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.  (2 Chronicles 12:13-14)                                                                                                                                 

King Rehoboam’s heart was not set on seeking God – because of this, he did evil.  We simply cannot be good on our own.  Our goodness comes from setting our hearts on the One who is good.

Having selfish, unclean hearts causes a variety of problems for us and for those around us.  One way we can detect this problem is by recognizing the fruit our unclean hearts produce. 

One type of fruit we produce is our words.  Our hearts and our words have a very close relationship.  When our hearts are unclean, our words often reflect that.

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:44-45)

The verse above reminds us that we can often tell by our words if our hearts are unclean.  I’m not talking here about specific “bad words.”  I’m speaking, instead, about whether or not our speech is full of love and directed towards God’s purposes.  We can use lots of very nice-sounding words and be directly opposed to God’s Will.  Likewise, some people whose speech is “rougher” are directly aligned with God’s Will.  I’m talking about motive, tone, purpose, and being aligned with God’s will – not about specific words –because nearly any word can be used to accomplish or oppose God’s purposes, and can come from a selfish or a God-serving heart.  Language is cultural; love and selfishness are not.  Are your words coming from the overflow of good or the overflow of evil in your heart?

While our words can indicate if our heart is clean or unclean, so can our actions.  The verse below reminds us what types of actions spring from an unclean heart.  (For specifics on some of these “fruits,” click on one of the underlined words in the verse.

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and follyAll these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)

While many times our words and actions indicate the condition of our heart, Scripture also reminds us that not all the fruit of an unclean heart can be seen from the outside.  In fact, some people are able to hide their unclean hearts from the people around them for years.  [“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.”  (1 Timothy 5:24)]  Most of us know these people.  They seem like such “good” people, but are later revealed not to be.  We’re surprised because they seemed “good” on the outside.  If you suspect you’re one of these people (that is, if you know you harbor envy, deceit, malice, hatred, etc., in your heart, and you aren’t allowing God to work on you in that area), remember the following: 

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  (James 3:13-15)

Continuing to deny the truth about your heart will only lead to destruction.  Do not be proud that you have others fooled.  Turn to God in repentance and allow Him to begin His redemptive work.  Remember, even if you’ve fooled those around you, God is not fooled by people who pretend to love Him, but actually have unclean hearts:

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.   Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel16:7b)

We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  (1 Thessalonians 2:4b)

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  (Hebrews 4:12-13)

In addition to leading to problematic words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes towards others, an unclean heart separates us from God – especially unclean hearts that we are not repentant about:

The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.  (Isaiah 29:13)

Again: God isn’t fooled by empty rituals or a strict following of church rules.  He sees through our attempts to whitewash our wicked hearts.  And He isn’t impressed by the fact that we say the “right” words in front of the “right” people.  And He certainly isn’t impressed when we try to earn our salvation by following church rules.

The problems of an unclean heart are major – and we cannot solve them ourselves.  That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless, however.  There is one (and only one) cure for unclean hearts: God’s love.  Only God is able to transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts, hearts filled with love for Him and for others.

Next week we’ll look more at this transformation.

 

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 3

Last Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 1

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

 

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  –1 Chronicles 29:14b

 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  –Psalm 16:2

It seems that during the Christmas season, needs present themselves in a more apparent way than throughout most of the year.  Or maybe we’re just more attuned to them.  Probably some of both.  With coat drives, food pantries, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army ringers, and the countless other worthy charities out there, it’s almost a relief when the season is over and we can go back to being a little less attuned to these needs.

One of the reasons all these needs seem so overwhelming is that it seems like no matter how much we give, there’s always someone we’re not helping.  And that’s because there always is someone we’re not helping.  But what should be our response to this as Christians?  Try to hide from the needs around us?  Spend our time feeling overwhelmed and inadequate as we try to meet every need we see?  Neither of these seems right.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at being good stewards and prayerful volunteers.  In an attempt to better understand what God wants from us in these areas, we’ll start with the 1 Chronicles and Psalm verses above.

The point of these verses (for the purposes of this discussion, anyway) is two-fold.  The first we’ll get to this week.  The other we’ll tackle next week.

The first point is to start acknowledging (or to continue acknowledging) that everything we have everything comes from God.

Every dollar, every can of food, every scrap of clothing, every car, every minute of our time, every piece of toilet paper or paper towel, every ounce of laundry soap, every hair product, every book, every electronic gadget, every loved one, every academic degree, every talent, every toy, every shoe, every DVD, and every game is a gift from God – and belongs to God.  We’re merely the managers of these things.  We’re not the owners. 

This can be a freeing thought.  If we’re just managers, then our job isn’t to hold on as tightly as possible to “our stuff.”  Instead, our job is to care for God’s stuff (tangible and intangible) in a way that is pleasing to its Owner.  Our focus should not be on how to best use God’s gifts to serve our own needs and desires, but how to best use them for God’s glory and God’s kingdom.

A lovely couple I know put this into action in an interesting way several years ago.  They didn’t have children yet, so they picked boys up from a local boys’ home and drove them to church, took them on outings, etc.  As this couple put it, they had an empty backseat — which they were hoping not to have too much longer.  While they had it, though, they wanted to use it to glorify God.  A backseat.  Not something we usually think of as belonging to God.  But it does.

Consider: What do you have that you don’t usually think of as “belonging to God?”  How might you use it for His glory? 

 

Today, I’d encourage you to take an inventory of the things God has entrusted you to manage.  The list above can help you get started.  It isn’t necessary to write down every individual thing (unless you feel God leading you to) – broader categories should work just fine.

Then, spend some time thinking about — and maybe writing down (if that helps you) — how you most often use those things.  Are most of the things God’s given you to manage used to serve yourself or to serve God and others?

As you go through your week, add things that you notice to your lists.  What do you discover during your week that you hadn’t thought of as belonging to God?  What thing(s) were you surprised to realize you use in a primarily self-serving way?  Or, on the other hand, where were you pleased to see you’re doing well in using some of God’s resources to serve Him and others?

As you make your lists and as you go through your week, pray and ask God if there are any changes He’d like you to make in the way you use the stuff He’s given you to manage (the visible and invisible).  How could God use the things He’s given to you to manage for Him to make an even bigger impact on your relationship with Him and your relationships with the people around you?

Please feel free to share lists or ideas below!

Next week we’ll look at the Superwoman Complex!

Want to read more?

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy Monday’s Post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

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(becoming) peaceful

Proverbs 19:11: A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

With the traffic, crowds, hustle, and rudeness that we often encounter at stores, malls, parking lots (and in our own houses!), it’s easy to get huffy.  “If everyone would just do things the right way,” I often find myself thinking, “then everything would run more smoothly.”

If that lady would get in the slow lane (since she apparently wants to go 5 miles an hour under the speed limit), then traffic could progress at a normal pace.

If people would actually count to see if they have 15 items before jumping into the express line (instead of counting those 10 boxes of cereal as one item), then the express line could function properly – as an express line!

But, alas.  This isn’t how it works.

Our challenge today: Decide to offer an additional measure of patience to those you encounter today (and preferably this whole season — and our whole lives, for that matter — but let’s start small).

Consider: Is the 3 minutes you’d save if you weren’t behind the slow driver (or if the express line was really an express line) really worth the anxiety and frustration you’re allowing it to create? 

Consider, too, what those people might be experiencing: Might the woman in the express line have a child to pick up at daycare?  Might the slow driver be nervous because she had an accident a couple of weeks ago, and has been overly cautious since?  Consider the stresses that your life doesn’t have, instead of the stresses it does. 

And consider the fact that we’ve all been that person – too slow, a terrible item-counter, etc., at some point.  When we were that person, one of two things happened: Either patience was extended to us – in which case we might not even realize what a blessing that was from someone.  Or we were met with impatience – and we all know that’s not pleasant (and it rarely makes things move any faster, anyway).

So, instead of reacting out of frustration, behave with wisdom, respond with patience.  (This is our part of “everyone just doing things the right way.”)  And, remember, patience isn’t something we can conjure up on our own; it involves remaining in God, and being filled with His patience.  Maybe, with God’s help, you could even throw the “offender” a smile….

 

Up next (on Monday): (becoming) prepared for the season

Want to read more?

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

(becoming) a godly wife: being the light, but not fueling the fire

We all see it over and over, not just in Christian marriages, but actually happening in church!  How can a woman be nodding along to a sermon and singing praises to God one minute, and then scold her husband for having another cup of coffee the next minute – in front of strangers?  As we discussed in the last post, this shouldn’t be.  

But this raises a related question: As Christian women trying to be godly wives, when we see other women – even Christian women – doing this, what should we do?  Even if we don’t talk negatively about our husbands, does staying quiet when others do imply that we approve of it?

Let’s start here: Our culture has normalized the image of women talking negatively about their husbands – gathered together in gossip circles and even publicly scolding them.  Sadly, not only have women bought into this image, but many men have as well.  Many men have been emasculated to the point where they will accept this from their wives – even if it happens right in front of them.

If we look carefully, we’ll often see our men exchange knowing glances when one’s wife starts in.  It’s that “sorry, buddy, but I’m glad it’s not me” look.  Or the “you know how it is” look.  Or the “thank goodness she’s not my wife” look.  Is that really what we want to be?  More to the point: Do you want people to feel bad for your husband because he’s married to you?  Do you want to be the reason other men pity him?  If so, scold, nag, and degrade him in front of others.  If not, don’t.

Because our culture normalizes this sort of public chastisement – nearly encourages it, really – it’s very easy to do.  However, “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” (James 4:4)?  We shouldn’t look like the world.  Our marriages shouldn’t look like the world’s marriages.

So: what if we didn’t “conform any longer to the pattern of this world”?  What if instead we were “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s]” (Romans 12:2)?  This world and its prince (the devil: John 12:31, 14:30, & 16:11) want to sabotage Christian marriages.  The devil wants to make our Christian marriages look just like every other marriage.  And you know what?  For the most part, he’s doing a great job.

If we can change this culture of scolding and nagging and griping, if women and men can see that we don’t have to accept “normal” for our marriages, our marriages can be transformed.

But we have to make a choice.  A conscious, repeated choice to change this culture of complaining by choosing something better.  In the Bible we have the illustration of serving two masters – they will eventually conflict, and we will have to choose a side.  We can’t serve God and money, for instance (Matthew 6:24).  We also can’t serve God and our sinful desires (such as complaining about our husbands to others).  In the Bible we’re told our sin nature and God’s Spirit in us are always conflicting (Galatians 5:17).  We have to, in God’s power, deny our sin nature and choose instead to follow His Spirit.  And to be clear, choosing God is not a natural choice; it is a supernatural one, a choice for something (and Someone) better than normal.

One reason it’s so difficult not to engage in this sort of behavior is that it seems like everyone else is complaining about her husband.  As women, it’s so tempting to jump into that conversation.  We like to relate verbally.  But remember: To have the marriages God wants for us, we must give up this fake intimacy with these women for true intimacy with our husbands.  This is a choice we have to make.

Remember: We can be different.  We can be the light.

Being the light, of course, looks different depending on the audience.  I’m not suggesting that you start lecturing your non-Christian friends about their attitudes towards their husbands (1 Corinthians 5:12).  But I am suggesting that you steer conversations towards positive aspects of our husbands.  If a friend is having real problems (and some of my friends have), obviously you need to listen and help; but if he won’t fix the garbage disposal, the topic can be changed.  And, above all, do NOT join in the griping.  This is the biggest thing: Don’t join in.  Let her see that your marriage is different.  Let her see that there is a way for marriages to be happy.  You don’t have to say it directly (unless you feel led to); instead, let your life, your attitude toward your husband speak for itself.

Among Christian women, however, I think we need to be more intentional.  Steering conversations away from complaints about our husbands is a good start – but also prayerfully consider asking questions that get more to the heart of the matter, such as “This sounds like a long-term problem.  Have you and Bob sought counseling?  How has God spoken to you about this during your quiet time with Him?”  Etc.  Again, I’m not saying you need to lecture her – in fact, this is rarely the best approach – but I would prayerfully consider trying to help her turn to the right resources, whatever those might be in her situation: a pastor, a Christian counselor, her husband (often real communication between husband and wife can fix these issues), and especially God (He should be her source of strength and wisdom).  Again, above all, do NOT join in the griping! 

I’m not saying we all have to suppress our problems and pretend everything is perfect.  In fact, I think that sort of fake happiness is really damaging to the church.  I think it prevents people from openly addressing their struggles, and I think it makes many of those struggles worse.  But there are ways we can help.  For those of you who are in happy, Christian marriages, you might consider talking to your husband about how much he’s comfortable with you sharing with women who are struggling in their marriages.  If the two of you have overcome certain struggles, you may have opportunities to be invaluable resources to couples who are currently struggling.  It can help those couples to know that people have faced similar problems and made it through.  Spend some time talking to your husband and thinking about how God led you through your difficult time.  Consider what you might be able to share with a woman whose marriage is struggling.  Remember: The idea here is to keep the focus on the real solution (God) and to build our husbands up in the process.

While it’s important for Christian women to help other Christian women, it’s also important for churches to be brave enough to speak up when there’s a problem.  Women complaining about their husbands is a problem.  The church shouldn’t be afraid to call it a problem just because some women might not like to hear that.  Yes, that message might make some women uncomfortable or angry.  But honestly, the sermons and Sunday school lessons that make me the most uncomfortable and irritated are usually the very ones I need to hear. 

I think the reason some of us are hesitant to face problems head on is that, as Christians, we’re to love one another – and too often we translate “love one another” into “don’t cause anyone to be uncomfortable.”  But truly loving a friend doesn’t mean overlooking serious problems and destructive tendencies in her marriage so she doesn’t get mad at us.  Allowing a marriage to be unhappy (and potentially fail) because we’re afraid we might upset someone is cruel.  And let’s face it: It’s usually our own comfort we’re looking out for.  I like talking to my friend.  I don’t want to jeopardize that friendship.  Trying to truly help her might (at least initially) make her mad at me.  We don’t want to feel uncomfortable.  So we just watch the show. 

Most of us have heard some variation on this: To not share Christ with others is like holding a life raft on the shore and not throwing it to them – choosing to watch them drown while holding the very thing that could save them.  Watching a friend’s marriage fail is similar.  You see her going down a destructive path.  You know she needs to turn around.  But you let her go.  You choose to watch your friend’s marriage fail while holding the very thing that could save it.

Life Preserver, Bondi

Image by heather via Flickr

These are touchy subjects, and anything we say to others about these topics requires prayerful consideration.  But we must remember: Women complaining about their husbands to others is a problem.  We can’t stay neutral on this topic.  The default position on this in our society (and sadly, in most churches) is that it’s okay.  If we don’t share that opinion, there may be a time when we have to speak up.  In Scripture we’re told:

Proverbs 17:4: A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.  [When we listen to this type of talk, we’re complicit in the behavior.  We’re giving our approval.]

Proverbs 18:8: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.  [We will internalize what’s being said.  And while, if our marriages are strong, listening to other women degrade their husbands isn’t likely to make our marriages fall apart, listening to this type of talk is still unhealthy for us and our marriages.]

The other thing we have to remember is that there is a solution to this problem of women complaining about their husbands to others.  The marriages around us can be happier.  We just have to be careful to learn what our role in that may be.  In Scripture we’re told: 

Proverbs 15:23: A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!  [A good reply to a situation is good for everyone involved!]

Proverbs 26:20: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.  [Don’t be the wood on this fire.  By standing and listening, we’re fueling the fire.]

Proverbs 31:26: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  [The Proverbs 31 woman is wise when she speaks.  She instructs others faithfully.  Notice this does not say she silently disapproves of sinful behavior.  It also doesn’t say that she stands in the town square and randomly decries various sins.  Instead, we’re given a much more intimate picture: That of a woman wisely, faithfully instructing others.]

So, the challenge this week is not to confront the next woman you hear talking negatively about her husband.  The challenge this week is to ask God how He might use you to help His vision for Christian marriages be realized.  And remember, this starts with your own marriage.  We’ve got to get the planks out of our eyes before addressing the specks in others’ (Matthew 7:3-5).  But if, by God’s grace, you’ve made some progress in this regard, it may time to consider: Does He want you to broach this subject with a close friend who is always negative about her husband?  Does He want you to bring it up in a women’s class you attend or lead at church?  Maybe you lead a small group of high school girls and He wants you to discuss this topic with them, to help them prevent the problem in their own future marriages?  Maybe He wants you to begin thinking about this topic to prepare you for a time when a daughter or friend or co-worker asks you a question about it?  I don’t know what His task for you will be.  But He knows.  Ask Him!

Next week:  (remaining) Thankful

Last week: (becoming) a godly wife: how to welcome satan into our marriages

 

Want to read more?

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

 

(becoming) a godly wife: how to welcome satan into your marriage (part 1)

Le Lau, France - Three women talking, gossipin...

Image by Samuel Stocker via Flickr

Last Monday we talked about nagging and the damage it does.  One of the biggest problems with nagging is what it often leads to: complaining to others about our husbands.

Do you want to usher satan into your marriage, roll out the red carpet, offer him a warm beverage, ask him to make himself at home?  Complain about your husband to other people.

[As has become my habit, I’ll give a caveat here: if you need professional help in your marriage, by all means, seek it from your pastor or from a Christian counselor.  That’s not complaining.  That’s trying to strengthen your marriage.  If you need advice or a safe place to express your feelings (and you aren’t using “advice” or “expressing your feelings” as a cover for complaining), then I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to seek it from another Christian woman.  (A group of women becomes more problematic because it’s unlikely all of them will be strong Christians).  And this should be a strong Christian woman.  One who won’t let your advice-seeking turn into a husband-bashing session.  And we know the difference when we think about it for a minute.  And remember: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2).  God knows what our motive is.  He knows if we’re truly seeking godly counsel or if we’re using that as a cover for gossip.  He cannot be fooled (Galatians 6:7).]

But the type of communication covered in the caveat above isn’t most of what we see.  What we see are wives complaining about their husbands to other women.  Because he can’t wrangle the kid correctly.  Because he still hasn’t gotten the oil changed.  Because he acts like a child.  Because he’s just so clueless.  These are throwaway comments to so many women.  They aren’t thought about; they’re just saidThere’s no moment of reflection: Will this build my husband up or tear him down?  Will this honor God’s plan for marriage or dishonor it?

We laugh about how hapless our husbands are.  We top each other with stories of the ridiculous things our husbands have done.  Ways they’ve failed us.  As with nagging, we focus on the negative.  And then we wonder why we’re dissatisfied in our marriages.

A few things I think we need to think about:

1. Why would we want other women to think our husbands are incompetent morons?  Why would we want other women to think our husbands are children, incapable of leading?  (What is motivating us when we complain?)

2. What the Bible says about this:

a. Proverbs 11:12: A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.  [And our relationship with our husband should be far closer than our relationship with our neighbor.]

b. Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  [Our husbands are pierced by this badmouthing, even if they never say anything.  It’s painful to see the woman who is supposed to be your closest companion belittle you to others.  We need to be the tongue of the wise.  Our words need to heal, not pierce.  If our tongues aren’t the ones healing our husbands, they may drive them to others for that healing.]

c. Proverbs 14:1: The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  [Why are we trying to destroy our own homes?]

d. Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes folly.  [This one is hard for me.  Not regarding complaining about my husband, but regarding almost anything else.  In so many situations, I know what I want to say, and I know the tone in which I want to say it.  I don’t want to weigh my answer because I know that God will often change my words, my tone, or keep me silent altogether.  I’d much rather gush than weigh when it comes to words.  Ultimately, though, I know I have to learn how to keep a reign on my tongue.  The Bible is full of verses that tell me that.  (Such as James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.)  This takes an act of will, though.  This isn’t something that’s going to magically (or even easily) happen.]

e. 1 Peter 4:11: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.  [Is what you’re about to say going to bring praise and glory to God?  Does what you’re about to say line up with the Word of God?  Sometimes I don’t like answering these questions, but this is what we’re called to.]

3. If the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, then what we are doing is akin to the Church walking around telling people: listen to how Jesus failed me.  Listen to how He keeps messing up.  Listen to how incompetent He is.  We wouldn’t think this was okay.  And I understand the difference: Jesus is perfect, our husbands aren’t.  But we aren’t told that the perfect husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church — just that the husband is.  We aren’t let off the hook because our husbands aren’t perfect.

4. Why do we think talking negatively about our husbands will make anything better?  Honestly, has anyone ever talked about her husband behind his back, gotten it off her chest, and never done it again because that one session of complaining met her needs?  Nope.  Because those sessions of complaining can’t meet our needs.  They may make us feel better short-term, but we’ll find that we have to keep coming back to them to get that short-term feeling.  Complaining about our husbands doesn’t fix anything.  It’s an empty “solution” that has to always be repeated.  It’s similar to the sacrifices that had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament.  Those sacrifices were not a permanent solution.  They “fixed” the problem for a time, but had to be repeated because the same problem kept coming back.  Similarly, complaining “fixes” our problem temporarily (because we’ve vented), but we haven’t actually SOLVED the problem.  We’ve just put a band-aid on it.  And this wound will reopen.

The only solution to the yearly sacrifices was Jesus.  He was the only way those sacrifices could stop because He was the only thing that actually FIXED the problem of our sinfulness.  In the same way, He is the only solution to problems in our marriage.  He is the only thing that can FIX our marriages.  He is the solution that never runs out.  He is the only One who can heal our wounds.

So, what does this mean in practical terms?  It means we turn to Jesus (and our husbands), not to others, when we’ve run out of patience with our husbands.

Jesus is the only permanent solution.  This doesn’t mean, though, that you can use Him once and be done with Him.  The exact opposite in fact.  [He told us to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23).]  He commanded us to remain in Him, and said that we could do nothing apart from Him (John 15:4-5).  It does mean, however, that in Christ, you’re on “the Way” to permanently improving your marriage.

What I said last week about nagging holds true here as well:  Like any bad habit, this one will take time (and God’s help) to break.  It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up – to our husbands, to the women we complained to (or whoever else who may have heard it, children, etc.), to God.

Start now.  Tell God you’re sorry.  Ask Him to draw you closer to Him.  Tell Him you know He is sufficient for you — and that His way is sufficient for you.

Start today.  Tell your husband you’re sorry.  Tell him that keeping a rein on your tongue is hard for you – women just are verbal; we process things by talking about them – and ask if he’ll help by being more willing to talk through things when they come up.  This does not mean we nag our husbands more when problems come up.  This means we talk kindly (in ways that honor our husbands and our God) and calmly (prayerfully weighing our words).  And that we stay more focused on how we can improve in the situation than how he can. 

Under conviction from God, I made the decision before we were married that I would not complain about my husband to other people.  (As I said last week, it’s easier to not start a habit than it is to break one, so I’m grateful that God was so firm with me about this early on.)  This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  And let me be clear: I don’t feel isolated.  I don’t feel like I have to bottle up my emotions.  In fact, I feel far closer to my husband because of it.  We solve our skirmishes.  We work through our issues.  [More about conflict resolution in future posts.]  And it draws me closer to God – because let’s be honest: HE solves our skirmishes.  HE enables us to work through whatever the issue is. 

If I have sacrificed anything in this decision, it is the false intimacy women feel with one another when they complain about their husbands.  I’m willing, however, to trade false intimacy with a friend for true intimacy with my husband.  I’ll make that trade every time.

And please understand: I’ve made plenty of bad decisions.  I’ve had to unlearn LOTS of bad habits.  I know how hard it is to give up something that you’ve always done.  Something you’re comfortable with.  Something you feel nervous without.  So, even though this isn’t my struggle, I do know what it’s like to have similar struggles.

So, here’s the challenge: Stop complaining about your husband to other people.  Start stopping today.  (As always, I’d love to hear your insights below!)

Next Week: Okay, I’m willing to stop complaining, but do I have to stop listening to other women complain?  (aka: being the light, but not fueling the fire)

To read the wife series from the beginning, click here: wife, part 1

To read the fully submitted series, click here: fully submitted, part 1

To learn more about this blog, check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) a godly wife: nagging = (marriage) sabotage

Marriage

Image by jcoterhals via Flickr

Our culture has accepted that wives nag.  We see it on commercials, TV shows (think Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, Carrie from King of Queens), many of us heard our mothers do it, many of us do it ourselves.

Nagging is one of the most culturally embedded problems in our marriages.  And the tragedy of it is that nagging has become expected, accepted as “the way marriage works” – and nagging paves the way for huge problems in marriages.

Think about the cliché for a minute: “paves the way.”  Nagging smoothes out the road for other problems, welcomes other problems, makes it easy for other problems to enter our marriages – and the marriages of millions of Americans.  Once we get into a habit of nagging, we’re more likely to be unsatisfied in our marriages.  And why wouldn’t we be?  If our focus is constantly on what our husbands are doing wrong, what they aren’t doing, why they aren’t doing it, etc., how do we expect to feel satisfied in our marriages?  And if we aren’t satisfied, that can lead to many, many problems: seeking male attention outside of marriage, griping to our friends, etc.

So, here’s my advice: Don’t let a TV show or even the dominant cultural norms define who you are in your marriage.  Yes, nagging is normal in this world.  Yes, short term, it feels kinda good to “get it off our chests.”  But, no, it’s not God’s Will for our marriages.  It is not God’s best for our lives.

Like any bad habit this one will take time (and God’s help) to break.  It’s a process of being intentional about trying, leaning on God’s power, and apologizing when we mess up (to our husbands and to God).

The fact is, nagging is not just seen as something women do, but it’s often seen as actually part of a woman’s nature.  And while it certainly wasn’t part of our nature in the paradise God created, it does seem to be part of the corruption of femininity – a temptation common to fallen daughters of Eve.  And God, in His infinite wisdom, knew this was an issue we’d struggle with.  He knew this aspect of our sin nature would conflict with His Spirit Who lives in us.

Galatians 5:16-18: 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

And consider this: 5 times in Proverbs a “quarrelsome wife” is referred to.  While this can certainly be seen as a warning for men (Don’t marry this type of woman!), I think this can also be seen as a reminder for women (Don’t be this type of woman!).

Proverbs 19:13b — a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.  [Think about that: Drip, drip, drip, drip……same sound over and over and over……gets annoying after awhile.]

Proverbs 21:9 — Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 21:19 — Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.

Proverbs 25:24 — Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.  [Identical to Proverbs 21:9]

Proverbs 27:15 — A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.  [This calls to mind “adding insult to injury.”  It’s already raining, and a quarrelsome wife makes things worse for her husband, instead of making them better.]

Consider what these verses are telling us: Terrible living conditions are better than living with a quarrelsome wife.  We make our homes less welcoming than a desert, when they should be sanctuaries for our husbands.  We make even embarrassment and exposure to the elements preferable to being in a house with us, when our homes should welcome our husbands with open arms.

I think the “living on a corner of the roof” imagery is interesting.  The typical Israelite house at this time would likely have a flat roof made of mud and twigs (which required a lot of upkeep).  Even living on that would be better than living with a quarrelsome wife.

I wonder – and I can’t prove this, but I wonder – if there was also an element of embarrassment to this image.  Bear with me here: Patriarchs were incredibly important in this society, and housing arrangements were often designed around this familial structure.  For instance, a father (and his wife), his sons (and their wives and children) would often all live in a closely networked series of structures.  If you were living on your roof, it seems like everyone in the family would know.  And if the head of the household was living on the roof, it would seem pretty obvious that something was wrong in the husband-wife relationship.  That, I imagine, would be embarrassing for a man.  BUT, from these verses, it sounds like that embarrassment of living on your roof would be better than having to live in the house with your quarrelsome wife.  Again, this interpretation in not explicitly stated in Scripture.  I think it follows, though, from what we know about the time period and the family structure.

And make no mistake, quarrelsome wives are still embarrassing today; even if their husbands don’t end up on the roof, often their husbands end up trying to avoid them in other ways.  They may not retreat to the roof or the desert, but usually they’ll try to retreat to somewhere else.  I’m not saying this is the correct response from the man; on the contrary, I think men retreating instead of leading the household is one of the biggest problems in modern marriages.  But I’m also saying that as women, this retreating is partly our fault.  We often make it harder for our men to lead, and we make it easier (and more tempting) to retreat. 

We nag.  We degrade.  We embarrass.  They feel disrespected.  So they retreat.  They close us out.

They retreat.  They close us out.  We feel unloved.  So we nag.  We degrade.  We embarrass.

You get the picture.

The cycle has to stop somewhere.  Why not with us?  Why not today?  I know a lot of you have heard this song, but give this video a listen.  Anytime he says “city,” substitute “marriage.”  There’s no reason to wait — start here.  Start now.

So, what’s the challenge today?  Stop nagging.  Why wait?  Start here.  Start now. (And if you’re a younger woman reading this — maybe just married or not married yet — please remember, it’s hard to break these habits.  It’s much easier not to form them in the first place.)

Comments?  Questions?  Suggestions?  Strategies?  Failures?  Successes?  Leave a comment below!

Next Monday: Want to make your husband resent you?  Want to make his friends pity him?  Want to swing the door to your marriage wide open for SatanFind out how next Monday!

Click here to start reading the wife series from the beginning.

Click here to read the fully submitted series.

To find out more about this blog, check out the About page and the first post.

POST #8: (becoming) a godly wife, part 2: a little less talk and a lot more action

Last time we talked about some things we might need to let go of as wives.  Today, I’d like to spend a little time on some things we might need to start doing — or at least ways we might need to refocus our efforts.

So let’s start here: In what three areas do you least like serving your husband?  Or, put another way, what three specific things do you know he likes/wants/appreciates/needs, but you just don’t like to do?

By doing the things we like to do to serve our husbands, we’re really serving ourselves, not our husbands.  These things might still be helpful to our husbands, but as long as they’re things we also want, they are service to ourselves primarily.  That doesn’t mean they’re all bad things.  If my husband and I both want the laundry done, and I do the laundry, that’s good — it’s just not selfless service.

By intentionally ignoring the aspects of serving our husbands that we don’t like, we’re ultimately saying “I’ll ‘serve’ you as long as I like it, as long as I want to, as long as I’m getting something out of it, too.”  Consider what terrible marriage vows that would make: “I promise to love and serve you as long as I like what that entails.  When I don’t like what it entails, however, I will choose to not serve you.  You’re not that important.”  Yikes!

But essentially that’s what we’re telling our husbands when we don’t seek to meet the needs they want met.  We put ourselves first by only meeting his needs if we’re not being too inconvenienced, as long as it’s not too much extra effort for us.  This is incredibly hurtful.  Imagine if your husband only loved you when it was convenient for him — if, when you were difficult to love (and for some of us, this is much of the time!), he stopped bothering.  And I know some of you don’t have to imagine this at all; you live it.  But you know how hurtful this is, and how harmful it is to a marriage.  And this is exactly what we do to our husbands oftentimes.  We “love” them (read: put their needs first) when their wants and needs don’t interfere with our own – so we’re not really putting their wants needs ahead of ours at all.

Okay, so consider again those three ways that your husband would like to be served that you don’t like.  These might be mundane.  For instance, while my husband isn’t a fan of piles lying about the house, I don’t really like putting laundry away:

(This photo is from about 5 years ago.  Generally my piles aren’t quite as bad now…..)

One (or more) of the three might be of a more adult nature.  (I will not be inserting a picture here.)

Some of the three might be things he’s been asking you to do for a long time.  This summer I made an extensive chart of things I wanted to get done and things my husband wanted me to do.  Some of these things had been on my to-do list for years.  Let me tell you – it felt REALLY good to get them all done!

Now, once you’ve thought of your three things, ask yourself: why do you dislike them?

First, are they illegal?  Are they physically dangerous or otherwise harmful to you or others?  If so, obviously I’m not advocating that you do them.  I am suggesting that you seek help outside yourself, however.  Here’s a resource that may help: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php.

If none of this is true, consider: Is it because these three things are boring to you?  Or time-consuming for you?  Or uninteresting for you?  See the pattern?  All of these have to do with our preferences — not his needs

God has so much more in store for our marriages than we ever allow Him to do!  The sorts of blessings He can give us in our relationship with our husbands are unmatched in any other human relationship.  But He will not flood our marriages with these blessings if we are serving ourselves instead of one another.

Do we always feel like serving (again, read: loving) our husbands in selfless ways?  No!  (Well, if you do, then you’re a much better woman than I am!)

Why don’t we always feel like serving our husbands?  Plenty of reasons, I believe.  Sometimes the fault is theirs: they act in hard-to-love ways sometimes; they don’t always love us like they should.  Sometimes the fault is ours: we’re too busy with our own needs or the needs of others (unless you are clearly led to do this by God, don’t replace service to your husband with service to someone (anyone!) else); we’re tired; whatever he’s asking for doesn’t seem important to us.

But the main reason we don’t meet our husbands’ needs is that we aren’t loving God the way we shouldOnce we are continually (daily, minute-by-minute) being filled with God’s love, loving our husbands becomes possible.  It becomes fulfilling.  Even enjoyable. . . . usually.

And what does it mean to continually be filled with God’s love?  (See the previous post about abiding in Him.)  Ultimately, the main thing in our lives has to be our relationship with God — He is our Source of strength, our best friend, our Father, the Lover of our souls. 

And He has an amazing design for our marriages!  Not all good marriages will look the same – and that’s good – our walks with God don’t all look the same either.  My prayer is that we’ll all find God’s best for our marriages – and this takes time.  Time with God.  Time serving our husbands.  All of this, though, is time well spent.

Here’s my challenge to you today: Look at your list of three ways your husband would like to be served that you don’t like.  (Again, as long as they’re not harmful, etc.,) prayerfully consider doing all three of these sometime this week.  I know that might seem ambitious, but we put a lot of effort into lots of far-less-important things.

Think about this: If someone from church called and needed you to do three things that would take some rearranging of your schedule and some extra time from your week, would you do them?  What if your child’s teacher needed you to do something for the classroom?  What if your boss needed you to pick up some work, maybe for a co-worker who got sick?  What if a friend needed some extra attention?  We rearrange and reallocate our time for lots of different reasons.  Reasons that, ultimately, should come AFTER our service to our husbands. 

So, rearrange and reallocate what you have to.  Show your husband that next to God, he’s the most important thing in your life.  And, remember, he’s not going to believe he’s important if these things are done grudgingly.  This has to be done with a cheerful, servant’s heart.

I’d love hear about successes or roadblocks, either in the comments here or in an email (awomanforhim@gmail.com).  Trust me, ladies.  Our husbands will notice this!

Next week: part 3 of the wife series: the biggest and most culturally-encouraged saboteur of marriages….

Click here to read part 1 of the wife series: “why won’t he________?”

Click here to read the “(becoming) fully submitted” series.

To find out more about this blog, check out the About page.

Thanks to all of you who are praying for the anonymous girls in this week’s (prayer) warrior wednesday post!

(becoming) a godly wife, part 1: “why won’t he . . . . ?”

Ephesians 5:22 reads: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

And I’ve been wondering:

Do we struggle to submit to our husbands as unto the Lord because we aren’t submitted to the Lord in the way we should be?

If our relationships with God are out-of-whack, it shouldn’t surprise us that our relationships with our husbands have problems.  If we’re having trouble putting God (who is all-wise, all-good, has our best interests at heart all the time) first, of course we’ll have trouble putting our husbands (who are, as humans, flawed) before ourselves.

And, while those of us who are “good wives” often pay lip service to submitting, to putting our husbands’ needs in front of our own, when it comes down to it, we often want to hold our husbands to a standard that we don’t want to hold ourselves to — we expect his selfless service to us, and we feel like anything less than that lets us off the hook.  We find ourselves thinking things like: “He didn’t seem interested in my day, so I’m not going to have sex with him tonight.” OR “He doesn’t seem to be handling this problem correctly/fast enough, so I’m going to take over.

HOWEVER…..

This is not an option we’re given in Scripture — it doesn’t say “wives submit to your husbands when you feel they’re living for you.”  Nope.  It just says to submit.  Well, submit as to the LORD.    Which brings us back to our original question: Are we having trouble submitting to our husbands because we’re not fully submitted to God?

Hopefully, we’ve begun working on fully submitting to God.  That, in and of itself, will do wonders for our marriage, because it is God’s Will that we honor and respect our husbands.  If we’re in God’s Will at all times, respect for our husbands will naturally flow from that.  This post, though, is about what respecting our husbands looks like a little more specifically.

TWO NOTES BEFORE I BEGIN:

ONE: While this post is specifically about marriage, I think it’s important for unmarried women as well.  First, many of you will eventually marry, and being aware of some of these common problems beforehand might help you and your husband avoid some of them.  Second, those whom God never calls to marry will, very likely, have married friends who face struggles in the husband-wife relationship.  Perhaps something here could help you as you minister to them.  Plus, much of what we’re going to talk about affects all of our relationships, not just the husband/wife relationship. (Mark 9:35: Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”)

TWO: I’d like to note here that it might seem like these next couple of posts are unfairly hard on wives.  That I don’t say enough about what our husbands should be doing.  Here’s why: We can’t control what our husbands do.  We can only control what we do.  What we’d like to do is change our husbands so they’ll do what we’d like them to.  Or we’d like to use their shortcomings as an excuse to not improve ourselves as wives.  All of this is selfishness (sin) and all of this is very natural.  We like easy fixes.  We like comfortable things.  We like getting what we want.  But, as Christians, we’re called to something better.

In addition, these posts are about the Biblical role of the wife, not the husband.  I’m not going to handle the husband part because I feel like that will tempt us to focus on his shortcomings, instead of our own.  What follows is meant to help us become better wives — no matter what kinds of husbands we have.  I can almost guarantee you, though, that allowing God to make you a better wife will help make your husband a better husband.  But that can’t be our goal.  Our goal is to honor God and our husbands.  Period.

 

Without further ado…….

This post is going to pose several questions.  These are NOT rhetorical.  I think it’s helpful if you stop and answer them.  They also don’t always have a right or wrong answer.  Sometimes, it just a matter of taking stock of where you are so you know how to move forward.

First, what three things do you feel like you’ve told your husband over and over or asked him to do over and over?

Second, why can’t you let go of these things?  This isn’t meant to imply that you should have to, but I think trying to articulate why something is so important to you can help you plan how to handle the issue in the future.

For example, if you’re constantly telling your husband to drink less because he’s had a DUI, is spending too much money on the habit, and frightens the kids when he’s drunk, I’m not telling you that you have to stop being so selfish and leave him alone.  Quite the opposite in this case: your concern is stemming from actual safety and relational concerns.  I would recommend, though, getting help other than just yourself.  (A great resource is Focus on the Family’s website.  They offer solid advice on a wide variety of issues: www.family.org.  You can also call to talk to family care specialist or look up Christian counselors in your area: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.)

However, for many of us, what we nag our husbands about is not nearly so important.  So, once you have your list, consider why you can’t let go of those issues.  WHY is this so important to you?  What need of yours would he be meeting if he did these three things?

For instance, let’s say you always tell him to get projects, etc., done faster.  Just totally pulling this example out of the sky.  Have no real experience with it or anything…. J

And this speed is important to you because, well, you want these projects done.  The house would look better.  Or he could then move on to a new project.  Etc.  He should want to do this for you because you want it done.  In this case, though, if it doesn’t get done, there’s no real harm.

Consider, too, why he might be taking so long.  Does he even know how to do the project?  Does he have other things that are more pressing priorities?  Is he just a slow person?  Is the project not important to him?

1. If he doesn’t know how to do the project, there’s a good chance this is causing him quite a bit of anxiety.  As we’ll talk about in a later post, there’s a lot of pressure on men to know how to do stuff.  More than there is on women.  Maybe easing up on him would relieve some of that pressure.  And really, is the project so important that it’s worth causing him anxiety over?

2. If he has other, more pressing concerns, then he probably needs to be cut some slack.  If he actually has more to do than he can get done in a day/week/month, then asking him how you can help with the load might be a good idea.

3. Is he just a slow person?  Honestly, this was probably something you knew about him before you married him.  But maybe he’s gotten worse.  Or maybe you thought you could “fix” him.  But, if this is a trait you knew he had when you married him, you’re probably going to have to let your timetable go in a lot of cases.

If you’re pretty sure he’s just a slow mover, I’d ask him about this.  My husband is notoriously slow at almost everything — and I knew this going in.  The positive side of this is that almost everything he does is done to an incredibly high standard and he makes very few mistakes.  The negative side of this is that he’s SLOW!  And I’m NOT!

We’ve found lots of ways to cope with our different styles (and I’m happy to talk about them, if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation) — and for the most part, we work very well together.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the slowness never gets on my nerves.  However, this is usually a personal preference thing, not an actual issue.  (Even if I sometimes feel like my preference is the correct one!)  If this is the case for you and your husband, I would recommend talking about it.  Our discussions have taken us some time (time I don’t always feel like we have to spare), but they’ve allowed us to utilize our strengths really well — and spending the time talking about it when we’re both level-headed has led to far fewer disagreements.

4. Is the project not important to him?  Sure, he should want to do it because it’s important to you, but the fact is, he’s not perfect at this putting-others-first thing either.  Again, you might find out why it’s not important to him.  Was he not consulted about the decisions regarding the project?  Is it a project he doesn’t see the need for?  It is outside his area of interest?  Talking about this might help you handle projects better in the future.

Overall, though, I’d recommend prayerfully considering letting go of the top three things that you feel you tell your husband over and over or ask your husband to do over and over.  Unless, as discussed above, this is an actual issue (drinking problem, violence, etc.), it’s probably a matter of preference.  And, as we’ve discussed, his needs should be put ahead of your own.

I’ll grant here that this is much easier if you’re both trying to do this the right way.  If both of you are trying to put the other first, you won’t bother him so much with projects, etc., and he’ll get done what is important to you.  Both of you will make some sacrifices and both of you will have needs met.  And if, like me, you’re blessed enough to have a husband who leads and puts you first, take some time to thank him today.  I think sometimes those of us with husbands who do this well underestimate how much easier that makes our roles as Biblical wives.  If, however, this is a one way street, it becomes much harder.  The truth is, though, that it’s still what we’re called to as Christian wives.  If your husband isn’t a Christian (or claims to be one, but doesn’t show much evidence of it), remember that you are not alone!  God is with you through this journey – and other women who have been in the same situation can offer solid advice.  Here are some resources that can help you:

Focus on the Family Advice: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25920.

Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/spiritually-single-raising-godly-doesnt-believe/nancy-meyer/9781576838747/pd/38747?event=CF

Another Book Recommended by Focus on the Family: http://family.christianbook.com/doesnt-believe-encouragement-alone-their-faith/nancy-kennedy/9781578564347/pd/64344?event=CF

And another:

http://family.christianbook.com/how-to-save-your-marriage-alone/ed-wheat/9780310425229/pd/0425220?item_code=WW&netp_id=119593&event=EBRN&view=details

And another:

http://family.christianbook.com/beloved-unbeliever-loving-husband-into-faith/jo-berry/9780310426219/pd/42621?event=CF

 

So, Challenge One on the road to becoming a more godly wife: Prayerfully consider letting go of some things that you most nag your husband about.  Realize that “why won’t he . . . . ?” isn’t the only question to ask.  The right question to ask might be “why won’t I . . . .?”  Remember that this is a sacrifice you’re making for the good of your marriage.  Remember also that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sacrifice God made for the good of your relationship with him.

I’d love to hear about successes, questions, concerns, etc., as you work on loving your husband more and more.  Please comment below!

Next Monday: (becoming) a godly wife, part 2: a little less talk and a lot more action!

Want to read more?  Check out the start of the (becoming) fully submitted series.

To learn more about the purpose of the blog, check out the About page.

POST #2: (becoming) fully submitted, Part 1

A question I’ve wrestled with for a long time: What does it look like to be fully submitted to God?

This post is one of my attempts at sorting that out.  My prayer is that some of what I’m thinking about might be helpful to some of you as well — and/or that some of you might have something wonderful to add that I’ve missed!  (I welcome your questions and insights.  Please comment below!)

I think one place we can look to start understanding what full submission to God looks like is the two greatest commandments — found in Matthew 22 and Mark 12.  Matthew 22:37-40 reads:

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.”

Love God with all you are.
Love others as you love yourself.

And what does that look like?  Perhaps a better question: What is love?

Biblically, love is unselfishness.  It is putting God before everything and putting others before ourselves.  It is not, as my husband puts it, having the warm fuzzies for something.  The English language uses a single word for love, but the Greeks had several words for love.  They would use different words based on the type of love they were talking about.

Now, however, our language lumps everything into the same “love” pile:  I love pizza.  I love football.  I love to teach.  I love The Office.  I love God.

Because we have only one word for love, we run the risk of minimizing what it means to love God.

What I mean when I say “I love The Office” is that I think the show is hilarious, the characters well-developed and well acted.  I mean I enjoy watching the show.  I mean I generally get a good feeling when watching the show.  Notice the “I” in all of those statements.  The way I love The Office is entirely tied up in how I feel about it, what I get out of it.  My love for The Office is an entirely selfish one.  If I stopped thinking it was funny or if I just didn’t enjoy it as much anymore, I’d stop watching it.  I’d stop loving The Office if it stopped providing me with what I wanted.

Is this the same love we offer God?  Does “I love God” mean that I think God has good characteristics?  Does it mean that I enjoy being with God?  Does it mean that I generally get a good feeling when I’m with God?  Can my love for God be defined in almost entirely “I-centric” ways?  If so, then the rest is true too: If I stop feeling like God has good characteristics or if I stop enjoying God, then I’d stop spending time with him.  I’d stop loving Him if He stopped providing me with what I wanted.

That’s not the kind of love we’re called to in the Bible.  In the verses about the greatest commandments, love means putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.  Love in this sense is, essentially, unselfishness.

So, if I mean that I love The Office in the Biblical sense of the word, then I would put watching it above anything else in my life; I would do whatever was in the best interests of the characters/actors; I would spend as much time with it as possible.  I think we’d all agree, that’d be pretty weird.  But, Biblically loving God and others does involve putting them above anything else in my life, doing whatever is in their best interests, and spending as much time with them as possible.

So, you can see why the fact that we only have one English word for “love” can cause confusion.  It can also dull our senses to what it means to really LOVE God.  When we’re so used to saying how much we love reading or shopping or the color blue, saying we “love” God isn’t something we necessarily give a lot of critical thought to.

My challenge for all of us this weekend is to start giving some critical thought to it.

 
Ask yourself: Can I honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)?  Can I honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him?  Which of these areas is the most difficult for me to give to God?  Why?  In what areas might God be asking me to become more fully submitted?  (Please comment below.)

I would encourage you to answer these questions honestly.  God already knows the answers — and it will be beneficial for your walk with Him, if you know the answers too.  Knowing the answers will help you restructure any parts of your life that aren’t in line with loving God.

So this weekend hopefully some of you will join me in looking honestly and critically at what we mean when we say “I love God.”

In the next few posts (next one coming up on Monday!), we’ll break these areas of submission down further.  (And I’ll share one of the ways God asked me to more fully submit to Him.)

To read the next post, click here: (becoming) fully submitted, part 2

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