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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How to Build Your House - Marriage Talk

I'm sorry I'm so delayed on this second part to the How to Build Your House talk on marriage.

Okay, after laying a nice concrete foundation - the foundation of Jesus being the One to Whom you go for your feelings of security, joy and peace, thereby taking that huge burden off your husband (who will always fail you if you look to him to meet those needs as they can only be fulfilled by God) - you will need to build the frame for your house.

Framing your house is putting up the supporting beams, the boards that define the borders and rooms, how it will be shaped, and whether it will stand or fall. To what in our marriage can we liken the supporting beams? Well, God tells us women only two very specific things that we must proactively do in our marriage. The first one is to submit. (As a disclaimer here, this piece is written for women who are not in abusive or desperately wicked circumstances. This is for the average sinner married to the average sinner.)

Submission is actually not just required of us towards our husbands. It is required of us towards everyone. Why don't they hammer this into our heads when we get saved? It would have spared me a lot of heartache, that's for sure. The Bible says that we are all to submit to one another. If we practiced this command, so many of the problems rampant in the church today would likely be resolved. Why do I believe that? Because problems arise through the avenue of pride, and submission has one requirement. Humility. Another thing I learned late in the game: Humility is the mark of a genuinely mature Christian. Many people place undue value on knowledge, Biblical understanding, theological expertise, skilled oration and other imposing and intimidating factors. However, God looks upon the heart and seeks to lift up, encourage and bless those whose hearts are humble, not proud. Humility is what it takes to submit, especially when you are right, but even when you are wrong. If I can't submit to my husband, there's a little weed growing somewhere in my heart that needs a good tug. Another one of those foxes that spoil the vine.

Paul tells us in Ephesians that we should be "submitting to one another in the fear of God." In the fear of God? Yikes. Why is that? Well, Peter tells us "...all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'" 1Peter 5:5. There you have it: If we do not submit, it is due to pride. Pride can happen when we know what's best, when we know the right thing to do, when we know the best thing to do, when we must have it this particular way because it is the BEST way to run a family, have a home, raise children, organize the kitchen...whatever. Yet, if we do not submit, we suddenly find ourselves in a position to be resisted by none other than the God of Creation. Scary, huh? Been there, done that. Believe me, it is scary. It's no fun when you know you are right, meticulously manage everyone and everything to be your way - since it is, after all, the right way - and find yourself in miserable relationships and endless want of joy. Now, we may be right. We may know the right way. We may understand things better. But, as I later learned, we are to submit anyway. Makes no sense, I know. Especially if we are RIGHT! But we need to not put our faith in our knowledge, our understanding, our "rightness", but in God's Word - that tells us to submit to one another. If we do submit, we will find ourselves in a place of blessing, we will find ourselves being showered with abundant grace and that elusive joy we were seeking all along. For the Word says that God gives grace to the humble. It takes humility to submit. God is looking upon the heart. We are not submitting because they are right, we are submitting because God has told us to, and we trust Him to work it all out according to His plan and purpose, for our good, His glory. When we submit ourselves to others, we are actually submitting ourselves to God as a living sacrifice - holy and acceptable to God. In every act of submission, our eyes must be upon the Lord.

In marriage, submission is not a cowering woman, with frightened eyes, walking on egg shells and frantically trying to make everything perfect for the raving giant yelling, "Fee Fi Fo Fum!" Submission is strength and confidence. The strength of character one must have to submit even when one's husband may not be making the right decision is nothing short of courage. One must have the courage to believe that obeying God will bring blessings and disobeying Him will ensure turmoil, period. For demanding our way with our spouses, nit-picking them, trying to lead them with manipulative measures (silence, disapproval, curt words) will place us outside of God's will - and in that frightening position of being resisted by Him. It takes courage to have the faith you need in God to say unto your husband, "Not my will, but thine be done." It takes an extreme amount of confidence in God to believe that His Word does not return void. His Word is true, and we can stand on it, do it, and live by it. Even when it's hard, if we submit to the will, desires and plans of our spouse - not begrudgingly, but with a confident peace, we will find ourselves in the very center of God's blessings. We will find that we will step right into the very blessings that He has promised us all along - the very thing we seek, which is peace under any and every circumstance, joy that knows no bounds, joy in the midst of any kind of storm.

We need to remember that God promises to lead and guide us, to protect and care for us tenderly, like a shepherd. This God, who delights over us with singing, will lead us through the hierarchy He has instituted: marriage. He will guide our husbands in order to guide us. I believe that even if your husband is not a Christian, God will speak to, lead and guide your husband because of His promise to you, His child.

This means that if our husbands don't want to go to our parents for Christmas. We joyfully, with peace and confidence agree. If he doesn't do this correctly or that the way we asked, if he hasn't fixed the thing he promised to fix, if he won't agree to what you feel is needed, you release it all to the One who is the leader of your husband, God. You trust that as you kindly, with a gentleness of spirit, have faith that this is God's plan for you at this moment. When you begin to relax and allow your husband to lead, not demand they lead, but just position yourself to be the recipient of their leadership - whether they are a good leader at this moment or not - you will find that your husband will eventually begin to lead with confidence, he will begin to be the leader you wanted him to be all along.

Often, because we have fought for leadership with our husbands for so long, they are not in the habit of being wise and discerning leaders. They are in the habit of striving to get a few things their way. They have tended towards a selfish kind of living - but only because they haven't ever been given the true responsibility of leadership. After a while of submitting without a fight, without an argument, they will eventually begin to feel the weight of responsibility. Once they realize they are not being challenged, or that their selfish desire will not be thwarted, they will likely find they don't want to do that thing so badly. Often we humans become obsessive about wanting what we cannot have. If we know it's off limits, for some reason our sin nature can't stop thinking about it. Take chocolate for example. Take anything fattening for example. It's really not that it is so good. It's our sin nature that makes us crave something we can't have. Striving to have our way results in the same poor thought patterns.

We need to give over the leadership to our husbands, and by doing this, we give over the leadership to God. Once our husbands know they are the leader, then they will begin to think more carefully about their choices, their decisions. They will listen more attentively to the cautioning, leading, guiding voice of God. If he says the road is to the left, and you "know" it's to the right, you humbly say, "Oh, now I thought it was to the right, maybe I'm wrong. If you think it's to the left, let's go left." No more argument. No more convincing. Suddenly he doesn't need to fight to go the wrong way - he is the leader. He has to make the decision. He has to do the correct thing as all the weight of responsibility is on him. You are not going to demand your way.

The problem is, often we have for so long been the authority, the seemingly spiritually "mature" one in the family (though this is usually not the actual case as our maturity is mistaken because of our Biblical knowledge, not our humility), and we tend to subtly lead our husbands with lots of suggestions for how they should lead. This is not allowing our husband to lead. They are pretending to lead. We are pretending to follow, but are really leading them. We read all the books and then give them sections to read so they'll know what to do. We pick and prod, we push and plead. Then we wonder why our husband isn't the spiritual giant we want them to be. I believe it is because we have gotten in the way of the Holy Spirit. It goes something like this: You are always saying something to the effect of "I wish you would lead us in family devotions." This brings guilt and annoyance to your husband because he is being told that he isn't doing a good enough job. Then one day, the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of your husband saying, "Today would be a good day to do a devotion with the family before bed." But your husband doesn't discern that this is the voice of God; he suddenly beings to replay your voice in his head saying the same things. And instead of feeling energized to do the devotion, he feels burdened by his inadequacy and failure to live up to your and God's standards. You see, if we spend time in prayer to God over our desires, trusting in God to lead our husbands, our husbands will be able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit and not confuse it as our voice.

A loving supportive follower will build our husbands confidence in his ability to lead. If we accept the current leadership of our husband, this will give him the confidence that he is capable. As we continue to consistently submit to him, he will begin to feel like the leader God created him to be. Through keeping our mouth shut, asking God to lead our husbands - then trusting that He is leading him - our husbands will begin to actually be led by God. However, we must keep the attitude of submission not as just an outward show, but an inward trust. We can't say we are submitting, but inwardly be angry that we are doing it. We can't sulk in our spirits. That is not true submission. That is not truly trusting in God. If we really trust that God will and does lead us through our husbands, we will find ourselves submitting with trust. If we desire that our husbands lead us in family worship, we place it in God's hands. If God does not lead him to do this, then we can trust that this is not God's plan for our husband and we should trust that God's plan is better than ours.

You see, submitting to our husbands is really an act of trust in God. If we really believe God is Who He says He is, then, we can submit and accept our current circumstances without complaint, because we trust in God's love for us. If you struggle with believing in God's unfathomable love for you, it will be hard to submit to both God and your husband. But even the smallest act of faith, small steps in submission, will be rewarded by God and will build your faith and trust in God. I recommend you take those small steps, begin today giving over the leadership to your husband, as you will really be handing over the leadership to God. This will give your home the framework it needs to withstand even the greatest storms.

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