I Take Thee to Be My Husband… and then I’ll work under you, be your personal slave, and never have an opinion of my own forever! Biblical Garden of Love Part 1D
***I apologize for the delay in posting today. I’ve had problems with WordPress and the Internet, and there’s been a tornado warning in effect in the area, but not our particular county. Even so, I’ve been glued to the news.***
A Blessed Vow
For those of us who are married, I’m sure we can all recall the moments we said our vows. Mine was a particularly poignant moment. We got married in a small church in Western rural Pennsylvania on a New Year’s Eve in the early afternoon. I had awakened that morning with less than 6 hours of sleep to an overcast day (not helping my mood there, weather!). I wondered how many brides woke up the morning of wishing they could go back to bed. Is that normal? But I wasn’t about to miss one of the most important days of my life. I groggily wandered down the stairs of my maid of honor’s home in my teal green sweatsuit, my fluffy hair falling in my face, and sat down at the dining room table with my head in my hands. “What genius decided to get married at noon?” I asked in annoyance.
The day perked up quickly as I was rushed through a whirlwind of preparatory activities – makeup, dress, shoes, hair, breathing, practicing my Sister/Sister Dance with Alicia, praying with my friends, posing and taking pictures, praying with the pastor, eating pizza leftover from my rehearsal dinner very delicately in my wedding gown. By the time I reached the first step of the stairs leading to the sanctuary, I was breathing easily. I can do this! I’m relaxed. I stood poised on my father-in-law’s arm, awaiting the moment when they said I could enter and the cue music began. I got this! I thought to myself, then quickly corrected my misconception, God’s got this! As I entered the sanctuary, I became excited when my eyes fell on the most handsome man in the entire world, smiling and waiting for me at the end of the aisle. He had never looked better!
The rest of the ceremony was a bit of a blur. But when it came time to say our vows, the sun burst through the stained glass windows, falling softly upon us as Adam and I spoke tender pledges to one another. It was one of the most meaningful and moving moments of my life. It was as if God timed it perfectly for the sun to shine at that exact moment. It was His way of loving on us and blessing our union.
Now Everything’s Hunky Dory… Right?
After the wedding ceremony and a whirlwind of wonder on the honeymoon, you’re ready to settle into “real” life with your husband – comfort, pain-free, easy-going real life. If any of you have a marriage like this, then I think something’s wrong. Life is not Easy Street, and marriage is not a piece of cake. Real, honest-to-God relationship with your spouse takes work, effort, and unconditional love and respect. And if you haven’t caught on in these past couple posts in the series of the Biblical Garden of Love, it takes patience, often an enormous amount.
The BIG BUT…
I want to strongly warn you against something. Once you take that man in your life to be your husband, your marriage shouldn’t consist of you working under him, being his personal slave, and never having an opinion of your own. We’ve looked at what patience is; now let’s look at what patience isn’t – what submission isn’t.
1. Stoicism – which says “suppress it.” Stoicism was a Hellenistic philosophy in Greece that taught that destructive emotions were the result of an error in judgment and that a wise person would not suffer from these emotions. Just to clarify, these emotions I’m talking about are pain, pleasure, grief, and joy, all apart to life, and I’d argue, essential to growing in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Pleasure and joy. To argue suppression of pleasure and joy is unBiblical. Just spend time searching Scriptures and you’ll find hundreds, maybe even thousands of verses on enjoying life, taking joy in the Lord, being joyful, taking pleasure in marriage (Song of Solomon) and even being joyful under affliction and hard times.
Pain and grief. When Eve was cursed in the Garden of Eden, she was cursed with pain in childbirth and in marriage (her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her). As daughters of Eve, we have inherited this curse – generations of pain. Jesus speaks multiple times about how as Christians we will be persecuted for His Name’s sake, but that we are blessed because of it. Pain can bring about salvation in Jesus Christ, a strengthening of faith, a strengthening of marriage or other relationships, reconciliation, forgiveness, and even life.
James 1:2-4, 12 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (or patience in some versions). Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” See also Romans 5:1-5.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible says about James’ concept of patience:
“to exercise Christian patience aright, we must, (1.) Let it work. It is not a stupid, but an active thing. Stoical apathy and Christian patience are very different: by the one men become, in some measure, insensible of their afflictions; but by the other they become triumphant in and over them… (2.) We must let it have its perfect work. Do nothing to limit it nor to weaken it; but let it have its full scope…When we bear all that God appoints, and as long as he appoints, and with a humble obedient eye to him, and when we not only bear troubles, but rejoice in them, then patience hath its perfect work. (3.) When the work of patience is complete, then the Christian is entire, and nothing will be wanting: it will furnish us with all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare, and will enable us to persevere to the end, and then its work will be ended, and crowned with glory.”
Don’t be indifferent to your emotions. We aren’t to overlook our emotions (our pain, grief, pleasure, and joy) in stoic apathy or shrug them off as unimportant, but to allow them to be present and expressed in our lives. If your husband has genuinely hurt or wronged you, don’t just stand by and ignore your feelings. Tell him how you feel calmly and be patient with him if he doesn’t get it right away. An apathetic wife or husband can severely cripple a marriage. As Leonardo da Vinci’s character in the movie Ever After, an adaption of the Cinderella fairy tale says, “A life without love is no life at all.” You need to be fully emotionally present in your marriage in order to love and respect your husband completely.
Sidenote: As women, it is critical for us to have present, active, loving husbands. If you are struggling with a stoic husband, don’t feel like you’re alone. There are many women out there who have passionless, emotionally absent husbands. Receive comfort from the Lord, His Word, and prayer. Find a godly mature Christian woman and ask her to pray with you regularly. Talk with your husband about how his lack of emotion hurts you and how it is affecting your marriage negatively. And seek out pastoral counseling with your husband if necessary.
2. Fatalism – which says “grin and bear it.” Being patient doesn’t mean accepting physical or verbal abuse. If your husband is cruel to you, you need to speak up or out. You don’t need to accept abuse or cruelty of any kind as inevitable. It also doesn’t mean ignoring criticism. Explain to your husband that his words (or actions) were insensitive, harsh, or cruel.
If you are in a situation of serious verbal, sexual, or physical abuse, you may need to get away for awhile and take your children (if you have any). Find a local women’s organization that helps victims of violence. It may not feel like it at the moment, but God loves you and He cares about His children. You are a daughter of God, and YOU DO NOT DESERVE ABUSE, no matter what anyone might say, and ABUSE IS NEVER YOUR FAULT. You didn’t ask for it, even if you’ve made a bad decision. NO ONE EVER ASKS TO BE ABUSED. You can triumph over the situation with the help of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ even if you feel like there’s no way out, that you just have to take it, and that this is all you’ve ever known. The Lion of Judah roars protectively and longs to gather chicks under His wings. He weeps when His children are in pain. THERE IS HOPE. THERE IS A WAY OUT. YOU DO NOT EVER HAVE TO TAKE IT. AND THERE IS A NEW LIFE WAITING FOR YOU.
3. Escapism – which says, “run away from it.” Running away from a problem isn’t going to help you. Running away from a painful situation will only make things worse with time. Don’t avoid reality. If something is wrong, you need to address the issue with your husband.
4. Passivism – which says, “just go with it.” This is different from apathy. To be stoically apathetic means you are suppressing all your emotions, dismissing them as unimportant and irrelevant. To be passive means you are taking a back seat to your marriage and aren’t actively participating in your own life. Marriage means taking two unique individuals and blending them together as one, but this does not mean total loss of personality. Your opinion matters. Your feelings count. Your thoughts are important. If your husband has done something offensive or has neglected you or his duties somehow, don’t sit back and be idle when you should take action; don’t just shrug it off when your husband forgets to take out the trash time and time again and just figure “oh well.” Say something. Do something.
5. Isolationism – which says, “shut it out.” Don’t hide within yourself. Don’t distract yourself with other things so you don’t have to face the reality that your husband has mistreated you or hurt or wronged you in some way, shape, or form. Don’t isolate yourself from solid Christian people who can help you through a difficult time with your husband, or from people who love you. Let yourself out.
6. Humanism – which says, “deal with it.” There are two ways that wives commonly “deal with it.”
By taking control of the reigns – Don’t overstep your bounds and do your husband’s job; confront him in love and wait for him to take action. And waiting doesn’t mean putting up with abuse or neglect. Waiting doesn’t mean sitting around while your husband takes two weeks or two months to get back to a task or to reconcile with you. Waiting means humbly allowing the Lord to work in your husband’s heart and having peace in your own heart that God has placed your husband in authority over you and that He provides everything your husband needs to act and lead wisely.
By exploding in anger and frustration – Don’t react; Reconcile. Yelling, screaming, throwing things, picking a fight, insulting, etc does nothing to help the situation. Being humble in admitting your wrongdoing and being patient and gentle when confronting a wrongdoing is the Biblical approach. When you realize you’ve wronged your husband, say something like, “Honey, I’m sorry I have been so selfish lately. I didn’t realize that because I was being lazy I wasn’t meeting your needs.” When your husband has wronged you, you need to be crystal clear. Guys don’t always see the obvious. Sometimes you just need to say, “Honey, you hurt me when you said… or did…”
How to Respond Biblically
Maybe you struggle with one of these responses. Maybe you struggle with several. You may be asking to yourself: Is there no one to rescue me? How can I get out of this rut?
Good News! Jesus Christ is your Redeemer. And He’s given us this awesome book called the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help guide us in the right direction and tells us how to live righteously, pleasing to Him.
Which one of these responses do you struggle with the most? Why do you think you struggle with it? How do you or are you seeking to respond more Biblically? Share your burdens and your practical advice here, either via comments, EMAIL ME, or on Facebook. Part of what we do as the Body of Believers is share each other’s burdens and lend a listening ear, and asking: How can we help others around us?
Further Reading: April Cassidy of the Peaceful Wife Blog talks about confronting your husband in a Biblical loving way. Check it out here.
Repeat this to yourself:
As a married woman, I am subject to my husband’s authority and leadership. My husband deserves love and respect. I deserve love and respect. I am a daughter of God, apart of the Bride of Christ, a redeemed Eve. I am called to exercise patience in my marriage and in all relationships. I recognize that patience is not the same as stoicism, fatalism, escapism, passivism, isolationism, or humanism. I cling to the Biblical definition of patience, and will allow God to work in my life so that I may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
1. When Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect an introduction to the Biblical Garden of Love: practical advice on allowing the Gospel to work
2. What is Love? an introduction to 1 Corinthians 13
3. Does Patience Grow on Trees? Part 1 “…bliss will not last forever, and that trouble in paradise is inevitable…”
Does Patience Drive Your Car? Part 2 …“Being impatient is like driving down a road in the middle of a storm and suddenly realizing there’s a tree down in front of you…”
But What if Patience Doesn’t Fit? Part 3 “Write gentleness and kindness on your heart every morning just as you’d wear your wedding ring faithfully.”