Helpers for Unfinished Husbands

My husband recently saw the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia. I said my husband because I was not there to witness the beauty and glory of such a sight, although he did text me a photo. I was grateful for the kind gesture, but it did nothing to keep me from longing to be there in person.

I could see sunrays beaming through the upper half of the falls, creating a rainbow in the watery mist. Yet I couldn’t hear the thunderous crashes of the water careening into the ocean below. I couldn’t experience the feelings that well up when our senses are bombarded with wonder like a massive waterfall. I saw a fraction of the majesty on my phone. I love that he sent me the photo, but it was a poor representation of the real thing.

In much the same way, my husband is called to represent the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ in our marriage. But I have to remember he’s just a photo — a representation, an image, a sketch of the real thing. Our husbands have a great and glorious calling to be like Christ for us.

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Is Marriage a Cage?

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Marriage? Nope. Not for me. I was the fish swimming against the current when all my girlfriends were swimming in a desperate frenzy for the destination. I was like the Apostle Paul, happy being single and wishing all the fish would realize singleness is a gift. I appreciated Paul’s enthusiasm for the single life, but I overlooked his encouragement for the gift of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:7.) My upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision.

I believe my fear stemmed from a few sources. The church I grew up in held strong views of biblical manhood and womanhood, especially the woman’s role of submission in marriage. I believed in these truths only as concepts, but as real life personal application it felt daunting.

I also think the subtle cultural grasp of feminism was grabbing at my heart and mind. I was in college at the time and many of my professors were influencing the classroom with their worldview. Though I was scared of applying biblical womanhood in my life, and my college professors had a strong feminist mindset, the fault did not lie with all of them, but with me.

Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, states fear as the root of feminism by saying,

“But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability…Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears.”

My heart was fearful, because I desired control of my life. A godly relationship and marriage was a threat to my happiness from my perceived control over my life and identity. Control was the root desire I craved, which resulted in fear. I wanted control over my heart too. I was overly guarded. I barricaded my heart from vulnerability, because I knew a relationship had the potential to hurt me. To me showing emotion was a sign of weakness, and I took pride in the lack of it.

Freedom and a Cage

I felt like singleness was freedom and marriage was a cage. I thought my future husband would squelch my gifts, and I would be resigned to a frilly apron in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. Yet, today I am married. How did that happen? Only by the faithfulness of God slowly chiseling away at the rock of my stubborn heart.

He was my good Shepherd who disciplined me with his staff to protect me and kept me within his boundary lines. He guided me through the shadow of the valley of uncertainty. He did not leave my side. I could trust him. He was giving me a gift to bless me, and I was pushing it away. I thought marriage would trap me in a cage, but I was already caged in by my sinful fear. I finally realized Christ was the remedy for my fearful heart.

Throughout my dating relationship with my husband God continued to guide and discipline me. He had my best in mind and wanted me to see it as his best. He showed me that marriage is not a cage, it is a blessing; a gift he gives to make us more like him. The only cage is a heart trapped in bondage to sin.

Marriage is also a picture of Christ and his Church; a picture of submission and service. Christ led through service to a cross of sacrifice, and we as his Church respond in humility and appreciation for his service and sacrifice. God was calling me to live out this beautiful picture all through his sufficient grace.

My identity as a wife is cloaked in the ultimate identity I have in Christ. My gifts are not squelched, but they are being poured out in service for others in my home. My gifts are being used not only in my home life, but in my local church, and even through some of my writing. Other seasons will come for using more gifts as well. I don’t have to ‘break free’ from a family to experience the freedom I have in Christ. He’s broken the cage of my sin and set me free to live for him.

My Solid Rock in Marriage

I almost didn’t marry my husband.

I sat in my cubicle with showering tears and a shiny engagement ring on my finger. That morning on my way to work we had our first fight. My old fears of marriage crept in: loss of control, vulnerability, and the potential for being hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t go through with this. Maybe he’s not who I thought he was. Are these his true colors finally bleeding through?

I was gushing to my boss at work about the heated argument and the apparent pride of my fiancé. My boss patiently listened and said many things that day to me, but one sentence hooked me in. It seemed so simple, but in that moment it was profound. It was a reality of life I hadn’t experienced before this point.

He said, “I can be a very proud man sometimes, but I’m glad my wife still married me.”

To read the rest of this post, head on over to Boundless.org’s blog.

Love & Personality

I like personality tests. My analytical mind loves examining and discerning people’s personalities; even my own. I recently took an online personality test and my result was the assertive and stubborn leader found in ESTJ.  One paragraph in my personality type description said this:

“However, ESTJs don’t work alone, and they expect their reliability and work ethic to be reciprocated – people with this personality type meet their promises, and if partners or subordinates jeopardize them through incompetence or laziness, or worse still, dishonesty, they do not hesitate to show their wrath.”

Unfortunately, my husband gets the brunt of my ESTJ personality combined with my sin. So, when he doesn’t do things right, according to my standard, I can be harsh and unloving (or as the paragraph above states, “show my wrath.”)

To Love and to Abide

The above paragraph resonated with me, but didn’t turn to conviction of sin until I was reading 1 John 4:7-21.

Liberally peppered throughout 1 John 3 and 4 are the words abide and abiding. These words are referring to the definition: to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside, and to continue in a particular condition, attitude or relationship.

Another word that pops up in these two chapters is love. There are also phrases like ‘abiding in God’, ‘God abiding in us’, ‘abiding in love’, ‘loving God’, ‘God loving us’, ‘loving our brothers’, and ‘keeping God’s commandments.’ These individual themes tie together in these two chapters.

When we choose to believe Jesus is the Son of God then God abides in us. We in turn abide in God, and thereby prove God abides in us, by loving God. How do we love God? According to these two chapters, we love God by keeping his commandments and loving others. In fact, the essence of keeping his commandments is through loving God and others.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

We Love Because He First Loved us

So, what does this have to do with a personality test and conviction of sin? The fact that I am not good at abiding in love. Abiding in love is harder than I think. It’s not a fuzzy emotional feeling; it’s obedience. It’s nailing my wants, needs, and desires to a tree, so I can be resurrected to a new life of selfless love. I’m the one who dies, so others can live. This is what it looks like to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:5.) When we abide in him we take on his identity.

For most of us it is easy to love strangers, because we never see them again. But it’s harder to love those closest to us; the ones we experience life with everyday. We are going to have some friction at times with either a spouse, child, roommate or parent, because we see and experience more of each other. When they do something we don’t like we try to conform them into what we want-change them.

Yet, the most loving thing I can do for my husband is ask God to change me. It’s easier asking God to change others rather than asking him to change me. I need to ask him to help me be loving and kind to my husband, and this is possible through God’s Spirit abiding in me. It’s possible, because God first loved me.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19