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Posts Tagged ‘wife’

This morning, the FB post of a young friend of mine caught my attention. The post read something like this: My attitude is based on how you treat me. I took a deep breath and responded, saying: Or, my friend, there’s this. I’ve been working on having a better attitude… no matter how anyone treats me. Sometimes I need to confront my own negative spirit so that I can adjust my attitude concerning a person or situation.

My friend thanked me. But our conversation didn’t end there. My reason and all my senses encouraged me not to shy away from a deeper conversation. So, transitioning to a less public mode of correspondence, I confessed my fear of offending her. But here’s the thing, I told her: There is a negative spirit spreading not just across the country but in our congregational families and homes. At times, I feel this negative spirit wanting to consume me. I must call it what it is… and press back against it. It’s too easy to give myself a pass and just say what I want or maintain the attitude that justifies my cause. But, truth be known (and more often than not), it’s my own attitude that needs adjustment.

Stay the course, I encouraged my friend: Don’t forget who you are! You are God’s own daughter in Christ. Knowing that, you are equipped to battle all wrongs… in the spirit of humility and truth. Your family needs you. Your life and how you live it matters to more people than you know.

Only a few minutes passed before my friend reached out. “I appreciate your honesty and am not offended at all,” she told me. “But lately it seems as though I’m a literal rug laying on the floor of this home. Some days it’s so hard to keep going… to keep giving… knowing that everything I do is for people who don’t seem to appreciate me. Deep down, I know they do, but they sure could do a better job of showing it! I know… I’m selfish. I admit it. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when I feel like I’m taken for granted.”

It wasn’t difficult to recognize myself in this younger woman. And it would have been unkind of me to just let her confession hang in thin air. I took another deep breath and wrote these words to her:

My dear friend, I do understand. Some challenging experiences in my life once prompted my husband to share this verse and commentary with me. I’ve never forgotten them. St. Paul writes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). The commentary that speaks so well to this Scripture is from Oswald Chambers who wrote,

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful—to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say—”I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, ‘Well done.’ It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a doormat under other people’s feet … Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?

Remember your Baptism! As Lutheran Christians, you and I are both God’s children through Baptism. God has given us the gift of faith! He has called us by His name! He has made us His heirs! We are redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit! Believing this, we begin to reflect more of Christ and less of ourselves. Our attitude toward others changes.

Oh my! I wish I would have better understood the Lutheran teaching of vocation when I was a younger wife and mom. God has been patient with me and now, as a grandmother, He is showing me that a vocation is the station in life where God places us and from where we serve others.

Think on this! You have vocations of woman, wife, mother, daughter, niece, friend, and so on. In all these vocations you are called by your heavenly Father to serve your neighbor. You are called to be faithful in these stations whether you feel appreciated or not. Why?

Because in doing good for others we are loving God. Those we serve—whether they acknowledge our service or not—are receiving the benefits of our love for God.

As for our own personal care and nurture, well, God knows our needs better than we do. He provides just what we need when we need it most.

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The word “male” (Genesis 1:27), from the Hebrew word zakar, could be translated: “the remembering one.  Isn’t this a strange description for the male?   What is it that God wants man to remember?

God’s wants man to remember His Story (history).  His instructions for life.  His warnings away from death.  Just as Adam passed on God’s Word to Eve, so is man to pass on God’s Word to his family today — sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters.  Whoa.  Stop.  Adam passed on God’s Word to Eve?

Based on Genesis 1:27, I used to assume that God made man and woman at the same time.  That God instructed them both not to eat of the one tree.  That in choosing to do so, they would know good and evil… and die.  I was ignorant of God’s Word.  I was guilty of reading one passage, but not another.  God uses the first part of Genesis, chapter 2, to give more detail on His creation.  God didn’t create man and woman at the same time — or in the same way or for the same purpose.  Eve had not yet come to be when God gave the man His instructions for life and warnings against death.  She learned of God’s Word from man.  And, in God’s order of things, she would be privileged to help him remember it.  Trust it.  Use it.

One day, Satan slithered right past the man to deceive the woman.  The twister of Truth knew that Adam was entrusted with the responsibility of remembering God’s Word so he flattered the woman.  Put her in the role of leader.  Perhaps intoxicated by this attention, she disobeyed God and doubted His Word.  In doubt, she was foolishly emboldened to not only speak for God but add her own words as if they were His.  Eve’s words should have been to her husband.  She should have beseeched him to remember God’s Word and use it to engage the enemy.  Instead, she chose to tempt man to also eat of forbidden fruit.   Adam could have resisted.  Turned Satan on his tail.  But, failing to remember God’s Word and use it, the man was ill-equipped to cover his wife.  Lead away from danger.  God held man responsible because he failed to remember.  To act.  To engage the liar with Truth.  To bring order out of chaos.

It all could have ended there.  But, God’s love for His creation endures forever.  He promised that another Man would come.   The Man who would remember the Word and use it to cover every sinful man, woman, and child.  That Man is the Word.  The Word sent from the Father to be the Savior from sin.  In Jesus Christ, man has new opportunity to remember the Word and use it.  And woman remains privileged to help man remember.

How does she do this?

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tear it down (Proverbs 12:1).

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life . . . she opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue . . . the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31).  (Note: She deserves to be praised not because she is so amazing, but because she is not deceived by the world.*)

She is reverent in behavior, not a slanderer or slave to much wine.  She teaches what is good, and so trains the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands [as to God], that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).

Even if her husband doesn’t obey the Word, she may win him by her behavior when he sees her respectful and pure conduct . . . when she lets her adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious . . . likewise, her husband lives with her in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since she is an heir with him of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:1-7).  (No offense here!  God expresses care, not disrespect, for women because physically, women are typically smaller in size and weaker in strength which could make them vulnerable to abuse.  Husbands are not to exploit their size and strength in unkind ways.*)

A husband needs a wife who will patiently help him remember God’s Word.  Use it and pass it on.  On this earth, there is no more powerful union — for the benefit of children.  Society.  A future of hope.

*With appreciation for commentaries
from The Lutheran Study Bible

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The question is: “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect: The husband or wife?”

It helps to remember who created that “circle.”

God did.  And, true to His design, there is order.  God created human beings in His image, but He did not make them to be the same.  They are equal, but different.  God did not create woman at the same time as man, in the same way, or for the same purpose.  In fact, God revealed to man that he was incomplete.  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  “Fit for him” literally means: “Like his opposite.”  (Think of this!  Anatomically.  Hormonally.  Psychologically.)

Is it significant that woman was made for man?  To complete him?  Be his helper?  Yes.  The created order shows that man was to be the steward over all and she would help, assist, encourage, comfort, and be his advocate.  (The word “helper,” by the way, is not dissimilar to the word used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit [John 14:16,26).  In her privileged role, she is free to help without any initiative on his part.  She doesn’t wait for him to ask before she offers encouragement, comfort, or good counsel.

God’s created order is a reflection of Himself.  He is one God, yet three persons.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal, but with different functions.  There is headship in this orderly structure… and there is submission.  The same is true with male and female.  Even after sin spoiled God’s perfect design, the order of creation remained in place for our benefit.  Sin broke man and woman’s relationship with each other and with God.  But, in mercy, God used the submission of the Son, Jesus Christ, to save His Bride, the Church, and serve with humility.  A woman might resent the created order.  A man might abuse it.  But, whenever it is honored, it continues to serve family and society well.

Doesn’t the created order beg the question from a leadership perspective?  Shouldn’t the man be the first to step into the Ephesians circle?  No, not necessarily.  Even if he is stepping out front to fight wolves at the door, she is fully engaged as his ally and encourager.  In God’s design, the man is responsible for bringing order out of chaos, but she helps that happen.  Regardless of their different functions, both husband and wife can practice loving and respecting at all times.

There is no measuring stick.  No fairness meter.  In a godly home, neither husband nor wife keep track of what the other does or doesn’t do.  Both have the same goal: To do all they do to God’s glory.  And, when they fail, they apologize and forgive.  Both take their sin baggage to the cross — and leave it there.

Visits to the Cross happen all the time even in the best of marriages.   Let me approach this from a woman’s perspective.  Helping is what I naturally do.  But, flawed by sin, this becomes difficult.  My husband might not think he needs help.  Might not invite help.  Might resent help.  Might interpret my help to mean he needs “fixing.”  So, how do I enter the “circle of love and respect” at such a time?  Hopefully, I haven’t disengaged from the “circle.”  Hopefully, I am faithful in offering encouragement.  If I need to help, but he’s too prideful to accept it, I need to take care.  Be sensitive.  I may need to move slowly.  Mary told Joseph that she had been visited by an angel with news of her pregnancy, but Joseph was of the mind to quietly divorce her.  In their “circle of love and respect,” Mary understood that it wasn’t up to her to convince Joseph.  She needed to wait on God.  In His time, God helped Joseph get his arms around the situation.  A woman is helping — in one way or the other — all the time.  She may be helping to good… or bad.  To build up… or tear down.  To encourage… or discourage.  To trust God’s plan… or shape her own.

Ultimately, two are better than one.  One may fall, the other lifts up.  One may be overwhelmed, a team of two stands firm.  One alone is cold, two together stay warm.  One might fall out of the “circle” momentarily, the other welcomes him/her back in.  Woven with God, both are able to engage in the “circle” freely and unconditionally.

The pure circle of love and respect is tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, challenged to “shine like lights” and “hold fast to the word of life,” we do what we do for Christ — even if it means being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of our faith” (Philippians 2:14-17).  Faith produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives that frees us up to think less about self and more about other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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The New Testament book of Ephesians, in chapter 5, speaks to husbands and wives.  Someone recently told me that she understands God’s Word here to describe a “circle of love and respect.”  The husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband.  But, she wondered, who first steps into this “circle of love?”  The husband or the wife?

Is it one or the other?  No.  It is both.  Both, in response to God’s invitation, are responsible at all times: he to love, she to respect; he to lead, she to assist his leadership.  Both are to see each other as their neighbor and faithfully serve that neighbor in the way that glorifies God.  One does not wait for the other to serve. To love or respect.  To do something thoughtful or kind.  This might promote negative responses: “Because he doesn’t lead like I want him to, I can’t help him,” or, “Because she doesn’t respect me like I think she should, I can’t love her.”

Does the question, “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect” hint of fairness?  Who defines “fair?”  Who measures “fair?”  Behavior based on fairness also tends to slip negatively.  She could say, “Well, he didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  He could say, “Well, she didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  That isn’t how it works with God’s agape love.  We aren’t to be patient only if the other one is patient, kind only if the other one is kind, or selfless only if the other one is selfless.  Who should take the first step?  In a working relationship, there is no “first.”  Each is always trying to be patient, kind, and selfless.  He is responsible for his behavior.  She is responsible for hers.

It helps me to remember who created the “circle of love and respect.”  (I’ll return to this in my next post.)

In God’s language, a husband’s love for his wife and a wife’s respect for her husband are unconditional.   Not dependent on what the other does, or does not, do.  A husband’s love for his wife is actually how he serves God.  Should he wait to serve God until his wife respects him?  A wife’s respect for her husband is actually how she serves God.  Should she wait to serve God until her husband loves her?

To be sure, on occasion, one may feel like disengaging from the “circle of love and respect.”  The perfect “circle” is, after all, tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, with a growing faith in God’s Word for husbands and wives, we can practice doing what we do for the glory of God.  We can develop better habits.  God’s love in Jesus Christ was sacrificial.  Faith in the power of that love produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives.  It frees us up to think less about self and more about the other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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June is the traditional month for weddings.  Marriage expectations are high.  Most brides and grooms expect to have all their hopes and needs met by the other.  Is this possible?

In God’s perfect world, yes.  In a fallen and sin-filled world, no.

Marriage was instituted by God.  It is a union of two completely different people — male and female — for the benefit of children and society.  It is a relationship that models the agape love of patience, kindness, selflessness, and faithfulness.  It builds family and community.  It mentors the vibrant and compatible roles of manhood and womanhood for generations to come.

History explains.  After God created man, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  God wanted man to know that he was not yet complete.  He had no mate appropriate for him and he had no means of procreation.

Fit for him” literally means “like his opposite.”  Imagine that.  She fit perfectly with him, yet they were not the same — anatomically, hormonally, or psychologically.  With God, they would procreate new life.  She would be the vessel for the young one he would protect.

Equal, but different, the man and woman would unite in a partnership.  Their unique character traits and personalities would harmonize.  In God’s order of creation, a “helper” (Hebrew: ezer) would be an “assistant” and “ally.”  The ezerwoman would not be dissimilar from the “Helper” sent by Jesus to the disciples.  That Helper, the Holy Spirit, was called a “comforter,” “advocate,” and “encourager.”

The woman would know joy and contentment in her role of “helper.”  She would find limitless possibilities in her multi-faceted vocation.  She would help man to be a better steward over all creation.  She would help nurture all the living.  The  man would rejoice in his completeness.   He would love the woman built from his rib and guard her life as if it were his own.  He would serve not his own glory, but the glory of God (to her benefit).

In the first marriage, there was no fear.  Resentment.  Envy.  Frustration.  Anger.  Heartache.  Disappointment.

Everything changed when the first husband and wife sinned against God.  They were equally guilty, yet the consequences of their sins were as different as their natures.

Today’s bride and groom may expect to have all their needs met.  But, in a fallen and imperfect world, no person can do that for another.  Only God can and will fulfill our deepest needs.  At the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Bishop of London noted, “As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life.  This is to load our partner with too great of burden.”

Let us ease the burden with encouragement.  Sin distorts God’s perfect plan, but the original design is still in place.  It serves well when trusted.

  • A woman “fit for him” remains a husband’s opposite.  She is made to think, act, and love differently.  Sin complicates those differences.  Not only are they male and female, they have contrasting personality traits, quirks, familial histories, and experiences that may threaten to tear the marriage apart.  But, there is another choice.  With forgiveness and practice, husband and wife can merge their best qualities for the benefit of a stronger marriage.  They can stop playing “me against you” and become “we.”  They can unite as a team for the sake of their children.
  • A woman’s role still complements the man’s.  She is his “helper.”  Regardless of sin and circumstances, she has a choice: to help him be a good or poor steward; to encourage or discourage; to build up or tear down; to connect him to children or disconnect.  He has the choice to use God’s Word for life, warn against death, and cover his wife and children with his faithfulness — or not.

Equal, yet different, husband and wife have an example to follow.

Jesus is equal to God.  He is God yet, in His role as the Son, He submitted to His Father’s will in order to be the Savior of the world.  A wife who respects her husband and submits to his appropriate leadership is really submitting to God.  A man who loves his wife as Christ loved the Church is submitting himself to God.

Marriage expectations?  On this earth, husband and wife won’t make each other completely happy.  Won’t meet each others every need.  Warm fuzzies will fade.  But, Jesus in a marriage makes two “better than one.”  Opposites who glorify God rather than self change the environment.  Root deeper.  Build stronger.  Persist against every foe.

A threefold cord (God, man and woman) is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12).

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Relationships grow when rooted in the love of Christ.  Christ’s love was shown in the doing of a hard thing.  Christ’s love was sacrificial.  We don’t have to sacrifice for our salvation.  Jesus Christ did that on the Cross for us.  It’s done… once and for all.  Believing that, we’re called to live as forgiven people who also forgive others.  In a working marriage, husband and wife are constantly forgiving each other.  A particular “need” or “want” may be sacrificed for the sake of the relationship.  Such sacrifice cannot be measured, but is a fragrant offering to God.

During my lifetime, women have been told they have the right to have their needs met.   A “good” husband is expected to meet those needs.  But, what if he doesn’t?

Time and experience wrapped in God’s Word speak.

“I thought I could change him.”

A friend wasted so many years trying to “fix” her husband.  She pushed, prodded and regularly reminded him of his failures.  In time, she realized that her techniques never worked.  Instead of trying to change him, she asked God for a changed attitude.  Little by little, she learned that it was her job to love her husband and God’s job to change him.  1 Peter 3:1-5 reminds a wife that she can win even an unbelieving husband with respect, pure conduct, and a quiet spirit.

“He doesn’t make me happy.”

A friend admitted that she was very dependent on her husband for her happiness.  She married him because he seemed strong, stable, and confident.  She expected him to take care of her like a good dad would take care of his daughter.  So focused on her own insecurities, she didn’t see that he, too, was sometimes fearful, unsure, and struggling.  One day, she adjusted her prayers.  “Please, dear God, help me be a better wife.”  She welcomed him at the door with a smile.  She asked him about his day.  She left cheerful and encouraging notes on his mirror, by his plate, and inside his boots.  It sounds rather magical, but in choosing her words with care and thinking of little ways to make her husband happy, this wife became more content.  She had a purpose.  She was serving God and He was surprising her with joy.  Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

“I feel more worthless with him than I think I would without him.”

A woman does not get her identity from her husband.  Treasured or abused, her value does not come from man.  Nor does our identity change with the circumstances of life.  Our identity — our value — is sure and certain because of what Jesus Christ did for us.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

“He’s such a disappointment.”

For many years, the wife mourned her marriage.  She was sure that God had made a mistake.  We’re too different, she thought.  This will never work.  Quite unexpectedly, the woman realized she really wasn’t fighting her husband, she was fighting God.  Focusing on her disappointment, she was paralyzed to think or do good.  Over time, she began to zero in on her husband’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  Every time he acted in an annoying way, she chose to think about his positive attributes.  She stopped criticizing him to her friends and started speaking well of him.  People of light “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 4:5, 11).

“He doesn’t seem to care about meeting my needs.”

No matter what the feminists told us, men and women aren’t the same.  Equal, yep.  But, not the same.  So, first of all, men can’t know all of our needs because they don’t think, feel, or communicate like we do.  And, second of all, shame on us for idolizing ourselves!  Are we called to be served, or to serve?  Honestly, who really knows our needs: us… or the One who made us?  A wife of many years put it this way: “I’ve learned that my husband is meeting my greatest needs.  His faithfulness is my security.  His labor provides financial covering and numerous freedoms.  Our shared faith makes us companions even when times are hard.   Does he love me?  Yes.  It is shown in his perseverance (1 Corinthians 13:7).”

“I don’t feel loved.”

Maybe we have the wrong definition of love.  If it’s an emotion, sometimes we’ll feel it and sometimes we won’t.  Love is better defined as the willingness to act for the benefit of another.  Love is being patient, kind, and unselfish (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).  I have found that love is when a husband and wife, in spite of differences, want to be a team.  “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).  This is a world made hard by sin.  When the enemy of life stands at the door ready to devour us, feelings and emotions will provide little defense.  But, real love evidenced by selfless partnership will overpower evil.   “A threefold cord (husband, wife, and Christ) is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

“Everyday, he grows more distant.”

A woman has great power.  She can break or make a man.  She can crush a man’s spirit — with a look or a word — or she can help his spirit soar.  When she emasculates him, brashly or subtly, her dagger slices deep to his masculine core to attack his very personhood.  No wonder it is better for him “to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).  Indeed, “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

Marriage is a hard dance.  Not surprising when we remember that we are sinful people living in a sin-filled world.  Not surprising when we acknowledge that men and women are equal, but different.  Not surprising when we consider our uniqueness as persons.  For this reason, we need the Word of God as our music.  Only then does the dance begin to change. 

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