a hard {but necessary} look at marriage

If I’m honest, this post scares me a little. I already know it’s not going to be popular. It’s been stirring within me for several years, and I speak about it in general terms, but today is different. Today is a day of defined revelation. Today the message becomes clear. I’m going to open up the vault and allow all that has been growing there to come forth.

I’m not a marriage specialist, but I am one who is deeply burdened by the lack of marital success in our culture. My grandfather planted a seed of faith in my heart shortly before I got married, and it proves to have staying power in our lives. He told me, “If you want your marriage with Jon to last, you’re going to need to keep Jesus Christ centered in your life. You keep Jesus in the center, and God will put everything else in its proper place.” That was some solid advice! After testing it more than twenty years, I wrote a book about it! The seed he planted in my life springs forth with a harvest of righteousness- marriages are continuously impacted by the truth of God’s design for the relationship between husbands and wives.

Let’s view the marriage described in this post as one experienced by a couple united in faith in Jesus Christ. Their desire is to honor God through abiding in Christ and through loving one another sacrificially. With this foundational structure in place, I am now free to describe the plans of God for marriage.

The Word of God defines the husband’s role as that of the head. He is over his wife and is to protect her and provide for her at all costs, even his life. If he ever fails to see clearly how he must walk this role out, Ephesians 5 points him to Christ. “You see what Jesus did for His Church? Do that!” (Renee’s translation). The wife’s role is one of honoring her husband by esteeming him trustworthy in all things. In the same way that she submits to the authority of Jesus Christ, she submits to her husband.

Struggling yet? I know, it’s hard. But what is impossible for man is possible with God! Go back to Grandpa’s advice: “Keep Jesus in the center.”

The Ephesians 5 passage continues to define the godly marriage as a depiction of the unity of Jesus and His Church. The husband and wife are one, just as Jesus is united with His Church. (Ephesians 1 states that Jesus is the Head, and the Church is His body.) That is why the symbolism of the rings is present in the wedding ceremony. The circular design speaks of the oneness, the unity in marriage. Previously, the husband and wife were two entities, but, through the covenant of marriage, they are now one. That is why we read, “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). Again I paraphrase, “God took the two and made them one, and He never said ‘Undone.'”

The more we reflect on the design of the symbolic wedding band, the more we appreciate the fruit of the husband and wife fulfilling their roles according to God’s design. The unending circular movement of the band enlightens our understanding of the mutual benefit the two receive from being in relationship with one another. He is always promoting increase in his wife, and she, likewise, does the same for her husband.

Let’s look closely at the husband. If you, as a wife, would ever seek to destroy his heart, you would only need to criticize his ability to provide well for his family. I know you wouldn’t want to do that, but I need to emphasize how vital it is for your husband to be a successful provider. If there is one fear that haunts his soul, it is the horror of failing to come through for his wife and family. He HAS to be successful. It is in his spiritual DNA. To succeed as a provider is to command respect. Hear your man complain about anything wrong in his life and read between the lines: the base of his complaint is always the lack of respect he’s getting but knows he deserves.

“I promise to love, honor and respect you.”

Ladies, when we honor our husbands, we show them that we know they are trustworthy. Their word trumps all of our ideals. We submit to their headship, and it spells R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That is what it means to love your husband. It’s a bending of the knee as if to say, “I choose to believe that you are correct in this matter.”

I know it sounds archaic. I know it sounds horribly demoralizing to women in light of the long and hard fight to gain equal ground with man. But, I am not talking about men in general; I’m addressing a wife’s love for her husband. I’m trying to explain how crucial it is for him to receive respect in his home.

Proverbs 31 sheds some light on a household where the husband experiences the respect he deserves as the head. Verse 11 powerfully states, “her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” Remember, next to his pursuit of abiding in Christ, the greatest need for your husband is respect; and, according to this verse, he does not lack it. He has full confidence in his wife to bestow upon him the needed respect and every other benefit she has to offer. He is confident.

Can I tell you something? I like my confident man. His confidence when I met him was attractive. Today he continues to be a strong and confident man. His character is strong, his work ethic is strong, his love is strong, and his attention to the needs of others is strong. I latch on to his strong bicep and feel so secure as the beloved of this confident man.

Sorry to be so self-indulgent. Let’s get back to the Proverbs 31 man! “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23). I’m convinced that this man would not have the position of influence in his community without the respect in his home. The wife who respects her husband sets him up for success in the community.

Over the years, I have watched my husband gain more and more area of influence as a result of my vote of confidence in him. There have been seasons where he dealt deeply with his fear of not being able to succeed financially, but I continued to be his cheerleader, promising him that his success is guaranteed in the Lord. Years ago, I challenged him to leave the company he worked for to create his own company doing the same work. I watched him earn a good income on the weekends doing side-jobs, and I was convinced that he could substantially increase his take-home pay if he continued to do the same Monday through Friday by working for himself. After many talks, Jon took the huge leap of faith and started his own company. God continues to prove Himself faithful to us by providing beyond anything that we could have even imagined.

I share the personal testimony to highlight a hidden principle. Many women are more focused on their own personal success than their husband’s. They have a strong drive to achieve promotion, and they go for it. I’m not against personal improvement; however, I do wish to emphasize the need to esteem the husband’s promotion above our own. Again, at the risk of sounding archaic, I ask that you stay with me, because it’s a wedding band. What goes around, comes around. We’re starting with the husband, but we will get to the wife. I promise!

The husband is the head. Everything wonderful and promising should first be established with him, because everything wonderful and promising will flow down from him to his family. I don’t know for how many years I have been truly conscious of the goal of his promotion above my own, but I am seeing the results of it. I’m like the Proverbs 31 woman who is getting praise at the city gate (v.31). Do you remember who is seated there? Her husband! Let me tell you, it is a sweet reward hearing your husband’s commendation for your works. We may be able to get some praise from those who see us from 9 to 5, but to get the same from those who spend the private hours with us- that’s genuine!

Why is it so important for a woman to hear praise for what she does? I worked for five years in a large school system and know how good it feels to be singled out for job performance. It speaks worth. When we, as women, know we are valued, we feel secure. Security is high on the list of a woman’s core needs.

“I promise to love, cherish and protect you.”

Do you want to know one of the reasons women currently work hard to be self-made? We have been taught that men are unreliable, that they will fail us every time. (This belief we have goes against the very drive within a man. We need to realize it is a lie from the enemy.) Worldly wisdom says you better have your own career, because when that man leaves you, you’re going to need an income. Isn’t that a depressing motive? It sounds logical, as though the one who originally planted the idea is looking out for our best interest. “It’s a back-up plan,” he reasons, “in case something happens.” Is that how brides walk down the aisle? Thinking about their back-up plan?

In case we’ve forgotten, the same insidious thought of a back-up plan was planted into the heart of Eve shortly after her wedding. Just in case God was holding out something good on Eve, Lucifer suggested she go with Plan B. And from that time on, women have had the desire for their husband (Genesis 3:16). However, women set free by the power of Jesus Christ do not succumb to the wicked desire of contending for their husband’s role. The Holy Spirit empowers us to operate in self-control and to consider him above ourselves. But wait a minute. Did you think the desire mentioned in Genesis chapter 3 is a sexual desire? Why would that be among the description of the curse from God for the disobedience of man? Sexual desire is expected of sexual beings. God created the human design for the mutually pleasurable effect of sex. The desire of Eve that all women now experience is something that requires our agreement with the victory of Christ to overcome. We don’t need nor want to overcome a sexual desire for our husbands. We must overcome the evil desire to be esteemed as his head.

Before you get the picture that the godly wife is nothing more than a roast- making, pedicure- indulging woman of leisure, know that the wife described in Proverbs 31 is anything but a softy. In fact, the term “noble” used to describe her character indicates the type of valiant strength of a soldier in a military setting. No wimps need apply for this position! Not only is she vigilant in her oversight of the home and her family, but she also has a business that adds to their household income, enabling her to provide for the poor. This is the kind of overflow our souls long for- not the “I’m being sucked dry” feeling of trying to live up to all the demands on my time.

But here is where you and I draw the line and say, “I want to be her,” because the truth is, “SHE CAN LAUGH AT THE DAYS TO COME” (Proverbs 31:25). If I know my woman species as well as I think I do, I know that, deep down, we desire security. We want to be able to laugh at the days to come. Instead, we’re all caught up in the fear of abandonment, the lie that our man is either going to fail to provide for us or ditch us completely, so we strive to make a way that is independent of him and perhaps we choose a course that is more highly esteemed than him. We go about our daily agendas with so many wrong motives rooted in fear. We lay our tired heads on the pillow at night only to stay awake and worry about what tomorrow and the coming weeks may hold. “Why is that woman in Scripture so confident and I am not,” you ask? Remember the wedding band? Your confidence in a secure future stems from your faith rooted in Christ and is enhanced through promoting your husband with respect. It’s all related, because it’s one continuous circle. What goes around, comes around.

One of the attributes most noteworthy about the Proverbs 31 woman is, “she is clothed with strength and dignity.” The dignity she realizes comes first from her value as a daughter of the King (Proverbs 31:30). Yet, her husband also has a part in bestowing value upon her life. His love communicates dignity, and because he is freed up from fear of failure, he is able to lavish a heightened sense of worth upon her. His confidence as the respected man in his home and community is a key player in the ability to focus on the worth of his wife.

How do you feel when the one closest to you expresses the highest complement that could ever be spoken by the lips of another human? If you’re a man, you feel strong and respected. If you’re a woman, you feel valued and secure. Let’s make sure, husbands and wives, that we’re doing this for one another.

Dear friends in the covenant of marriage, I want you to know success. I didn’t write the manual, but I share its truths so that we may all honor God and honor one another with marriages that point to the unity of Christ and His Church. When you close this post, go before God’s throne and ask Him to show you your personal responsibility in making the circle whole. Ask Him to show you what area requires your laying down something you refused to let go of in the past. Ask Him to show you what area requires your stepping up your game. Ask Him to be in the center of your marriage.

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2 Comments on “a hard {but necessary} look at marriage

  1. Renee this is so powerful and right on! Very encouraging and reminds me that I definitely want to be that woman! Thank you for sharing!

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