And if I were – would that be what God wants me to be?
Around the ‘sphere, discussions have popped up about some popular books on being a good wife – Created to be His Helpmeet and Fascinating Womanhood in particular.
While we can glean useful information from these books and articles, there is often an undercurrent of manipulation. “If you display this behavior, your target will respond in X fashion”. “If your target is failing to display the desired behavior, then you are somehow failing in your own display”.
I’m not saying that the instructions never work – far from it. What I am saying is that these instructions rely upon the “clean up the outside” method of self-improvement. And that method is neither Scriptural or useful in the long-term.
Scripturally, we are told to submit to the process of sanctification, as we are given a new heart at the time of salvation, and as the Holy Spirit works through us, changing us from the inside out. We become harder workers for the sake of Christ, we are given the spiritual gifts of agape love and joy and faith and peace, we learn to rely upon the Lord our strength and our shield.
I have been this woman… the woman who idolizes her husband, and puts on the outer garments of godliness in order to acquire her husband’s approval. The woman who lies in order to avoid displeasing her husband. The woman who gets stomach cramps because something happened that day that won’t please him. The woman who casts herself down and makes herself small, in a pathetic show of submission. The idolater.
Not only was that woman clearly in sin, she didn’t make any points with her husband! My husband HATES that. He hates lies, he hates dissembly, he hates it when I hedge… heck, he doesn’t even want me to wait until he’s unwound from work before I tell him what random little thing broke that day. And God? God knew my heart, and knew who I was really trying to please – and that I would sacrifice my relationship with Him in order to get it. Do you think I was making any points with God? Oh – but those books, those BOOKS told me I was doing things right. And I could take pride in doing things “right”… couldn’t I?
When we make ourselves small, we lie about who we are. We lie about what we are capable of doing. We cheat our husbands of our full resources of strength, intelligence, courage, resourcefulness, and wisdom. We are poor stewards of the gifts that God created us with. We fail to bring Him glory. We are the third servant in the parable of the talents – the one so afraid of his master that he hid his talent rather than investing it and putting it to use and increase. Do you remember how the master treated that servant?
This is not to say that having worked as hard as we are able, we are not then to lay our produce at the feet of our husbands. No. The Bible says that it is my husband who is leader of this household. Whatever increase I can manage – even if it’s better skill with the needle – is a benefit to my husband. Why? Because I obey God by submitting myself to my husband. I do not make myself smaller … I kneel. You can say that those are the same thing, and you’d have a point. But when I hear “lower yourself” I hear, “make yourself less”. I hear the advice in all those books, much of which involves acting like you have the brains of a grapefruit and the backbone of a squid.
Truly – what do you want of the one who is your helpmeet? Would you not want someone who did everything to be as good at things as she could be, so that all the skill she found, she could then turn to the good of your family, your household? Is not a skilled worker more valuable than a fool?
Now. There are those who have bought our culture’s paradigm of womanhood so thoroughly that they don’t understand the joy of giving themselves utterly to their husbands, and that whatever they can acquire is not for their *own* glory, but for the glory of their husband, for the glory of God. These women need a reality check. They need a heart change.
Reading a book about being a better wife, looking for what she can glean to fine-tune her behavior, asking her husband for guidance… if those things come from a heart that has already surrendered, then they can be of great effect. But if the one reading the book is looking for ways to manipulate her situation, it’s all trash.
At the end of the day… if I work hard to become the smartest, strongest, most loving, wisest woman I have the potential to become, maybe MAYBE I’ll be half the wife my husband deserves. The very last thing I need to do is make myself less, make myself smaller.
All that I have is his, because all that I have is God’s, and God has given him dominion over me and responsibility for me. That doesn’t lower me. Obedience doesn’t lower anyone.
It is my honor to submit to my husband, and I do not consider myself “lessened” thereby.