There are many struggles in marriage. Regardless of religion. It doesn't matter if he believes or if he doesn't. Every marriage has its struggles. And doesn't it seem like everybody has advice (ironic that I'm writing and you're reading this blog of advice...)?
When we start to open up about our marriage to friends, whether it be to friends who are believers or friends of the world, we are opening ourselves up to all sorts of suggestions:
"Don't let him think he's right!"
"Girl, you just go home, pack up your things and leave."
"I think you should pray about it."
"Just don't say anything at all."
"Smile and nod, that's what I do."
"Honey, you got to tell your man that you run the household."
Whoa. It can all start to conflict. And it's not always good advice! And before you know it, you're face to face with your husband and you have no idea what to do. Because Joan at work said to just ignore him, your hairdresser told you to talk to him, your best friend told you to leave him, your grandmother told you to pray and your neighbor told you to just let it be. It's no wonder that we are sometimes so confused!
I'm not a marriage counselor. I've never been trained to counsel someone. I'm not the perfect wife, God knows I'm barely a good wife! The only thing I know that I am is God's daughter. And I know what He expects of me.
I remember talking to my co-workers (I work with a staff of women, aside from two male physicians) and one of the girls was sharing about the fight she and her husband had been in for over a week. Each girl had a piece of advice, but it was all pretty much the same: "don't give in. Don't let him think he's won." Won what? Was this a battle? A war? Because she was mad at him, she stopped doing his laundry. Stopped making dinner. Stopped being affectionate. She had just cut him off. And he did the same. They were just two bodies under one roof. Now, I've definitely been there. I've definitely wanted to cut off and ignore the man who made me so mad. But, because I'm a daughter of God, I've been called to a higher standard.
"I don't think you should cut him off like that," I bravely said to the group of angry lionesses. It was like a scene from a movie...they all stopped talking and turned to stare at me. "Even if Ryan and I get into an argument the night before and it's not resolved, I still bring him his coffee in the morning."
The angry wife replied with, "what? Oh, no. That's not happening. I don't even bring him coffee when I like him."
Then one of her angry-wife followers said, "yeah, this one [pointing to me] doesn't play by our rules." Hmm...what rules would that be? Ah, yes. The rules of the world.
It's so hard, spiritually single or not, to be a Godly wife in a world that no longer views submission to our husbands as a good thing. In fact, I bet as some of you just read that word "submission" your mouth curled, you became nauseated and you are tempted to stop reading. In today's society, submission is defined as weakness. But in reality, submission takes great strength.
Does my husband walk all over me? Does he treat me like a doormat? Thankfully, no.
God doesn't want his precious daughters whom He loves more than we could ever understand to be a doormat for anyone. "Well then, why would he ask us to submit to our husbands?" Because ultimately, we are submitting to God. And we are imitating our Savior.
Whenever I complain to my best friends about something in my marriage, I usually will finish my complaints with this: "...and don't 1st Peter 3 me." I'm sure you know what I'm referring to:
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." 1 Peter 3:1-2
Yeah, we've heard this a time or two... But wait, it says "...in the same way..." The same way as what?? Let's read a bit before this scripture:
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that your should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:21-23
Ohhhh...so, in the same way as Christ. Now, I don't know about you, but when an argument comes up, I will talk and talk until my point is proven and accepted or my opposer just gives up. I want to prove why I'm right. I want to prove that he is wrong. I want to discuss the reasons why. And if I'm in the wrong, I will talk until I justify my actions. I will manipulate a conversation to take the focus off me. I will retaliate. I will make threats. I am nothing like the example Christ set for me to follow.
Many of us think, "I don't have to be submissive to my husband. He doesn't follow God, so I'm sure God doesn't want me to submit to my husband." Hmm, let's look at it again:
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands..." (1 Peter 3:1).
It doesn't say, "wives of Godly men, in the same way be submissive to your husbands..." It just says, "wives." God isn't being a mean guy about this, He has a reason why we should be submissive to our husbands, especially those who are not (yet!) believers: "...so that if any of them do not believe the word [hmmm....I think we know someone], they may be won over by the behavior of their wives..." (1 Peter 3:1).
God has a clear purpose for our submission to our husbands: the hope of their salvation. Notice, He didn't indicate a time frame. He didn't say, "wives, submit to your husbands for one year and if he's not a believer by then, you can stop." Nope. He left it wide open. Could be one year, could be 7 years. It could be 6 months, it could be 20 years. It could be never. But the command is still the same: "wives, submit to your husbands..."
So let's discuss submission to our husbands. The world views submission as weakness, and in particular, submission is for women who are incapable of independence or self-reliance. Our society is spearheaded by the idea that women no longer need a man and submission is being viewed as a cowering to authority. But that's not what God intended. When He created Adam, He created a worker. A man to hold the responsibility of caring for and tending to all that God created. Adam, I would imagine, was strong. He was a provider. He was a worker. Then God saw that it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, so He created Eve...and He used a part of Adam to create this woman, remember? God used Adam's ribs to create Eve (Genesis 2:21-22).
I absolutely love this quote from Matthew Henry: "Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near to his heart to be loved by him."
God designed us to stand next to our husbands. Society tells us that we should rule above our husbands and the world's definition of submission is women being trampled upon by husbands.
But that's not what God thinks of submission. Think of Christ when you think of submission. He was gentle. He listened. He put others above himself. He had compassion. There were numerous times he could've called on angels to prove to all that he was in fact the Christ. But he didn't. He was humble. He heard and listened to the concerns and disbelief of others. He was able to place others higher than himself and yet he was the King of Kings! And why? Why was his character as such? Because god asked him to be. And he was submissive to God.
Ultimately, you are submitting to God and what He expects from you. In the same way Jesus submitted to Him. Imitate Jesus. Ask yourself the clichéd question: "what would Jesus do?" Would Jesus stop serving someone just because he was mad? Would Jesus cut off love and affection because someone disagreed with him? Would Jesus wage war on someone because they accused him of wrongdoing? Nope. In fact, we see the exact opposite of that when our savior is being crucified and he asks his Father to forgive the men who nailed his body to the cross (Luke 23:32-34). That doesn't mean you should pray, "God, please forgive my husband, he has no clue he's an idiot." God would take one look at that prayer and say, "oh, sweet daughter, it looks like we need to work on your heart first."
But it does mean showing your husband the light of God in your response and treatment of him.
Remember what we read in 1 Peter 3? It will be our Godly behavior that wins over our husbands. My simple act of bringing coffee to my husband speaks much louder to him on many levels. To my husband, it translates into meaning I want to serve him, I care about his needs (who doesn't need coffee in the morning?), I want to please him and I love him. When I deliberately stop bringing coffee to him because I'm angry, how does that now translate? "I don't want to serve you, I don't care if you need it, I have no want to please you because I don't love you." So what's his natural response going to be? The same exact translation. And now the start of WW 3 has begun.
But I can tell you, that the mornings after an unresolved fight, when I bring his coffee to him, I'm met with softer eyes, a gentle "thank you," and a man who knows I love him, I respect him, and my heart is softer and ready to hear the words of my husband. Society would tell you to do exactly what my co-worker was doing: "cut him off. Don't submit to him until he throws up the white flag. Don't serve him. Why are you bringing him coffee in the first place?" God tells you: "serve him. Hold his needs higher than yours. Respect him. Let him lead. Don't worry, I'm right here."
Submission: denying yourself (Luke 9:23), considering others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4) and obeying God's commands (1John 5:3, John 14:23). Imitate our savior.
God calls us to a different standard because we are His.
Submission is not a weakness. Only the weak are unable to submit.
*Do not misunderstand what I'm saying: if you are in a marriage that involves verbal or physical abuse, that is something that needs to be addressed by a professional, not by a woman writing a blog.