~All married women are not wives.Japanese Proverb
~Teacher, tender comrade, wife, A fellow-farer true through life.
Robert Louis Stevenson
~Proverbs 31: 10-31
Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
I think a lot about being a wife.
More specifically, about how to be an excellent wife.
It is not something that comes naturally to me. I have to continually work on my actions, my motives, and my priorities. Another issue that I often have to tinker with (well, yeah..... more like smack it with a sledgehammer) is my "it's all about me and my rights" attitude. That's a tough one.
First, I need to tell you something. When I first got married, I was not, consistently, a very good wife. I had the desire to be a good wife, and definitely had some of the skills to be a good wife. What I lacked was the ability to see beyond the immediate "cause and effect" value of my actions. In other words, I was giving of myself, but only so that I could get something in return. If I didn't get the response I expected (or felt I deserved) I would often be sullen, angry, silent, and feel cheated. Not a pleasant thing.
Some things happened to galvanize me into action, to make me realize I needed to change my entire outlook. Reflecting back on that period of time in my personal life, I read a lot of books, thought purposefully about who I wanted to be as a wife, and prayed a lot. Here are some of the things I learned, and continue to learn/work at, that have helped me.
It's not all about you:
This is a daily, sometimes even hourly struggle for me. Situations arise all day, every day, that cause the selfish child in me to demand her own way. There are times when I have taken care of everyone's needs but my own ALL DAY and Wade will get home and need several things. Or there are days when he will call me from work and need me to take care of something that causes me to deviate from my "to-do list", or shift my plans around. Sometimes it's something as simple as him asking me, first thing in the morning, to put something in his lunch that I haven't pre-prepared, and I have to run downstairs and bag it up. I want to say, "don't you know I have my OWN things to take care of?? I don't need one more thing to do!" But I have learned that somehow, when I put his needs above my own, I have the energy and strength to take care of his needs and mine. And can I tell you something really, truly amazing? Wade will often meet a need of mine that I didn't even ask for, or think to ask for. Because he felt cared for and wanted to return the favor. It starts a cyclical pattern of unselfish behavior that is beautiful -because it doesn't demand anything in return.
It's not all about HIM either:
Your value and your self worth do not lie in your ability to please your husband. They lie in your identity in Christ. For years after I began to work at being a good wife, I placed my complete identity in what I could do for my family. I had no other interests, no other aspirations. It put a lot of pressure on Wade to be everything to me- my security, my encourager, the litmus test for my worth. While I obviously think it's a worthwhile endeavor to pursue being an excellent wife, I don't think that alone should be who you are. It puts undue stress on your husband to be God in your life, and makes your husband an idol in your life.
Speak well of your husband:
This is a big one. When I was first married, I worked in an office with other women. A common topic of conversation (which I readily and regularly joined in) was who's husband was the biggest jerk, and the latest episode of drama which was, of course, never the fault of any of us.
That was SUCH a big mistake. I often participated in these conversations, bringing up topics that I actually wasn't even ANGRY about before "venting" with the other ladies, and by the time I was done, I was furious and thinking about all the ways in which I needed to set Wade straight. All of the appropriate sympathy at my plight was given by the women I worked with.
(A quick interjection- I don't mean you can never have a close friend with whom you share your struggles and talk honestly about your marriage. I am talking about negative talk with no real purpose other than to compare, vent, and complain.)
I made a hard and fast rule to NEVER say negative things about Wade. While I'm sure I have broken this rule once or twice over the years, I am proud to say I believe that would be the exception and most assuredly not the rule. In speaking well of my husband, I find myself being more aware of the positive aspects of his character, fortunate to be married to him, and proud that others can see what a wonderful man he is. I believe a secondary benefit to speaking well of Wade is that he has returned the favor. It is so amazing to walk in to his place of work and know that the people there think highly of me based solely on the things he has said about me. It makes me, even more, want to live up to that.
Make time to have a relationship:
I know this is hard, especially if you have kids, activities, a job, a house to clean, a yard to mow, parents to tend to, a dog to clean up after........ the list goes on and on. We live in a society that is over-scheduled for sure. But one thing I learned and found to be true over and over again is that we give our time to what is important. Most of us find the time for the things that are a priority to us. Make your relationship with your husband a priority. Find ways to make it work, whether it's putting the kids to bed early and having some cocoa together in the backyard, or giving each other foot rubs on the couch while talking about your day, or even finding a sitter and going out to eat or to coffee or dessert. Have fun together. It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Make it happen. Don't worry about who plans it. It doesn't matter. If you are the one with the time and the means, then by all means, TAKE CARE OF IT!! (This, by the way, also falls under the "it's not all about you" category. Don't be mad that your husband doesn't plan elaborate dates if that's not his strength. Once you're out and having a good time, it's all good.... )
Make time for.... you know.... "it"
Sex is a really important part of marriage. I thought for a good long time whether or not to say this. (As a matter of fact, I wrote it, then deleted it, then wrote it back in!) But I think a lot of times as women (myself TOTALLY included) we are busy, and hormonal, and tired, thinking about the kids, stressed..... and totally neglect this part of our relationship. It's important. It's fun. Make time for it. Initiate it sometimes. 'Nuff said.
What you're doing is valuable in and of itself:
Finally, what you're doing is important. If you are married to someone who won't appreciate all of these things, THAT IS OK. Do them anyhow, because it's the right thing to do, and because you want to glorify God with who you are. Whether or not he responds in kind, you can go to bed every night knowing that you did the right thing. You walked the path that you were called to walk. This is very important. If you do the right thing ONLY if you get the response you want in return, you won't do the right thing very often. I promise you, you won't. That's where I was when I first got married. It kept leading me to the same place, anger and despair. When I began to spend my time thinking about who I was supposed to be, instead of who WADE was supposed to be, my marriage changed. In a very dramatic way.
One day, at the end of our lives, we will look back over our years and think about how we spent our time. Reflecting on our hours and minutes, how wonderful will it be if we can say, "I was the wife, the woman I was supposed to be." Even more wonderful if our example helps our kids either choose a good wife or become good wives. I love the last part of Proverbs 31- "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." What a goal.
Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans
Rosemary Garlic Focaccia
Strawberries and Orange slices