Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own 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. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
1 Peter 3:1-6
Wives, sisters, can we have a talk today? Go grab a cup of coffee and sit down with me for ten minutes. (How I wish we all could do that!)
A couple of weeks ago, I was perusing my emails when I came across an invitation from Darlene Schacht, the famous “Time Warp Wife,” to apply to be a part of her blogging group for her new book, Messy Beautiful Love. I was a little nervous, honestly, because I didn’t know if I would like the book, or if it would be just a bunch of Christianese urging all wives who love the Lord to give up their places in the workplace, church, and community to be barefoot, pregnant, and wholly beholden to their man.
Within the first three pages of the book, Darlene so humbles herself that I literally had to put the book down and take a break. I was shaking, tears in my eyes, blown away by her honesty. Okay, Darlene,I thought, you’ve got my attention.
From a place of complete humility, from a place of “see all of the mistakes I made; Now please listen so you don’t have to travel down that path,” Darlene lays out a beautiful blue print for living the life of a Christ-filled, loving wife. And, let me tell you sisters, you know I don’t do it all right. I’ve laid my mistakes and sins upon these pages time and time again. But secretly? I thought I was doing pretty good in the wife department. That is, until Jesus and Darlene started rifling through the dark corners of my heart: through the sin, through the justifications, through the fear and the envy and the plain old ugliness. So, please, as I continue, understand I am on my knees as I write this, praying for forgiveness and the will to change. Because I’ve been this way for fifteen years of marriage. I have deep-rooted beliefs that need to change, glacier-sized attitudes that only God can melt, justifications for my sin that are soooo convincing. Darlene insists that is what her book is about: “Exchanging God’s ideas for ours.”
Darlene addresses the truths of 1 Corinthians 13 in such a brand new way that I was able to stand in awe over one of the most over-used, over-quoted passages in Scripture, as if I had never heard St. Paul’s words before. I got stuck on one line I know by heart, but have not yet incorporated into my ministry as a wife:
“Love . . . does not envy.” How I have struggled with this since Jack and I were in high school! It’s so strange because I really am not an envious person, except when it comes to the Love of my life. Weird, huh? And it’s always been over gender issues, always because there were fifty girls to choose from and only 2 or 3 boys for every ministry opportunity in high school. I was so upset by the inequities I suffered that I applied to several girls’ colleges in an attempt to get out from under “Jack’s shadow.”
It’s funny how ironic that idea seems to me after reading Messy Beautiful Love, when I consider that a husband is supposed to love his wife as God loves His people. Part of God loving us is His shielding us and protecting us. In Psalm 91–the very first psalm I memorized as a child–this metaphor is depicted beautifully:
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Will say to The Lord, “My Refuge and my fortress;
My God in whom I trust.”
My husband is supposed to protect and shelter me…I was made to enjoy his shadow. Sadly, I have railed against this truth.
When we got to college, it was his grades and his classes that we worried about because he wanted to be a doctor. All the while I supported him, working more hours, cleaning the house, I was jealous. Jealous! Now, the funny thing is is that it was supposed to be our dream, our future I was working toward. And eventually he would make a great living that I would get to enjoy. But, as a young wife, I fostered jealousy. I hid envy in my heart and let it grow. And all along, I think it was really a rebellion inside of me at the very idea that I wasn’t the focus, the smartest, the One. I wanted to be the hot-shot. After all, I was just as smart as he was.
Becoming a stay at home mom didn’t help the j-monster growing in my heart. I was covered in barf and breast milk wearing yoga pants and t-shirts because that’s what made sense for me to wear at the time. We were buying Jack suits and he was flying all over the world, from Switzerland to Chile to Ontario. We both played the parts we needed to play to keep our family going.
From the moment Sam was diagnosed with his heart condition in utero, I was grounded. I couldn’t travel anywhere further than a half an hour from the hospital. And I was angry. I was angry for being left behind, for being diminished to this very limited, unstimulating life, occasionally getting so upset I would scream at my husband, “I am a waste of an education!”
And that was the thing: I did feel like a waste. Like God had forgotten me, given me talents and a mind and an education that was languishing, and guess what? I was angry. I took all of that anger and I wrapped it up in a venomous ball of hurt and hurled it at the one who “got to leave” when I was pregnant with Sam, who “got to escape” and go work in a private room at the hospital so he could keep his job and our livelihood, who “didn’t have to be there” in the ultra sound room when Caleb died.
And when I write it all out, I know how ludicrous it seems. Jack works hard and has done well for our family, and I got to be a stay at home mom because of that. I got to spend every morning with my babies, every feeding, every play date. But, I was angry. I am angry. I am angry that Caleb died, and I am angry that Sam has a heart condition. And in this world, there aren’t many people I can scream at who will stick around afterwards. So, I turn all of this anger and blame on the only person who won’t turn and leave me when I’m freaking out: my husband.
But this is what I’m learning about envy: it is about my pride, and it is about me not caring for myself sufficiently. I have to stop this assumption that I deserve to be top dog, because that’s not how God made it to be. I also have to start realizing that I am not a robot and I do have needs, no matter how dire our family situation is. I need to start addressing those needs so that I am not constantly running on empty, starving for rest and community and a little bit of fun.
Finally, I need to realize how necessary my role in our family is. I am not just a brood mare, dairy cow, and carpool driver; I am made to be Jack’s help meet, which Darlene explains means “ezer kenegdo,” or “sustainer beside him.” She continues to explain that “Ezer” is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe “God as our helper,” and that in “nearly every reference . . . God is coming to the rescue as He protects His people and defeats the enemy . . . Kenegdo means “alongside or opposite to, a counterpart.” She also includes that a “better translation of ezer would be ‘life-saver.'”
When I consider the significance of this translation, when I consider that my job as a wife is to stand beside my husband to sustain, defend, and literally save his life, it is hard to feel like a waste. It is difficult to feel small when he needs me that much, when I am his life-sustainer. It is also obvious why I must care for myself, fill my own cup, so that I might have the strength to fulfill my unique function.
So why do I resist this beautiful role? It’s embarrassing as I sit here and write these words: I am filled with pride! I keep thinking about Genesis 3:16 when God curses Eve,
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
That word desire appears three times (Gen 3:16, 4:7, Song of Songs 7:10), and has often been dismissed as a simple sexual desire. But, when taken in the context of how the word is used in Gen 4:7, the understanding of the term desire refers to a woman’s desire to enslave her husband, to possess or control him, but he must rule over her (to see an entire, very helpful article on this subject, visit Practical Theology for Women.)
I confess that desire lurks deep in my heart: to be in power, to be in control, to buck the system God fashioned to make my husband and I compliment each other perfectly. It’s my sinful heart that cannot rest in the role of life-sustainer. This sin has wounded my best friend, my partner, the love of my life.
I am ready to give up my struggle for power, and start a new way of giving thanks and giving way to the role God intended for me. I am scared and nervous to begin, but today I pray for a heart that does not envy my husband, but instead exults in the place beside him.