Monday, July 27, 2009

The Perfect Marriage

Recently, I have enjoyed reading some posts about building up our marriages. Of course, from a wife's perspective it is mostly about how to build up our husbands. These types of conversations have occurred among ladies' groups many times, both face-to-face and online. Without fail, at least one woman will claim martyrdom in her marriage. She will claim that she works hard at her marriage and prays unceasingly for her husband, but that God is not listening to her prayers; that nothing she has ever done has affected a long-lasting positive change in her lazy, unloving or real jerk of a husband. She will then claim that most wives don't understand her situation because they must be married to men who hold up their end of the biblical marriage.

What a load of manure!

(Now God has been showing me to hold my sarcasm and derogatory tones to myself, but this is one area that really tests my resolve to use 'soft answers'. Today as I write, some of my disdain for these 'martyrs' may leak out - for that, I apologize)

Most of the time I just stare blankly at these women while they attempt to convince me that God's plan is not working in their marriage. Generally they end up telling me (and other wives) that we likely can't understand their situation because of our perfect marriages.

Could someone please hand me a shovel, it's time to remove a few layers of crap and share some truth.

There was nothing perfect about my husband and I when we married - there's nothing perfect now. There have been countless times when one or both of us has openly refused to yield to God's plan for our marriage and we have paid the price for it with hurt feelings and lost time as "heirs together in the grace of life". Since this is my blog, I'll share an example of when my husband was being a complete jerk - I'll share a jerk story about me some other time ;o)
This occasion occurred when I was thoroughly examining my role as a wife. The Lord was showing me that my attempts to persuade or manipulate changes in my husband were futile - that only He could change him, if it were His will. We had been through a particularly nasty set of arguments over several weeks, so I put my hands up and said, "OK, God. I'll give him over to you and concentrate on how I should be acting."

And, I did. And it got worse - or at least, it felt like it was worse because I had to bite my tongue each time I believed my husband was baiting me or insulting me. Looking back, of course, I know Satan was giving me every opportunity to ignore God's advice - he never wants God's people to succeed and grow!

One particularly bad day I came home from work (still working full time) and my husband had been home with Duck all day. The house was a royal mess. I had had a long day at work. Not exactly a situation that made me want to love and honour my husband! But I determined to follow my deal with God. I smiled and made supper. Helped Duck to bed. Headed for the kitchen to clean. My husband headed to the couch and TV. Grrrr!

THEN, as I was elbow deep in the second load of dishes, my husband wanders into the kitchen, pours himself a pop and on the way out of the room tosses this comment over his shoulder.
"Dog needs water."

There are only a few time in my life where I have been angry enough to do physical damage. This was one.

I held onto the sink so hard my knuckles were white. God, Himself must have been holding my feet, because my husband is still alive today. Through gritted teeth (not exactly a submissive spirit) I prayed. For both of us. And God was gracious to give me peace about the situation. Again, I determined to work on my role as wife and leave my husband to God. I finished the kitchen and joined him to watch the news.

The little battles within myself continued but I did see glimpses of change in my marriage. Any positive events were held in my heart like gold! These golden moments were a treasure but they left me unconvinced that there was real change happening in my husband. Pessimism is a terrible waste of energy!

On a sunny Sunday we returned home from church and my husband was in foul mood. He changed his clothes and announced that he was taking the dog for a walk. Apparently there were spiritual battles happening in his mind because he unceremoniously stated, "I'm not going back to church tonight" and walked out the door.

"Why isn't daddy going to church, mommy?"
"I don't know, babe."
"Is daddy mad?"
"I don't know, sweetie. Let him talk to God for awhile." That was what I told myself, too. Again.

Duck was napping when my husband returned. He had taken the dog to walk at the river park across the road. The park area is on the other side of the river and there are boat locks that provide a walkway over the water. When no boats are travelling through, the walkway splits in two to let the boats through (kind of like french doors). He had been gone a long time, but even if I looked over, I wouldn't expect to see him on the other side.

He came home with a testimony of how God had been working on his life and heart.

I was all ears!

He admitted he had been acting selfishly and had, at times, been deliberately antagonizing. He confessed of his refusal to except responsibilities as leader in the family and co-participant in our marriage. Basically, his testimony was how he had been living with an its-all-about-me attitude and God had been making a change in that.

You see, he was telling this testimony as he was dripping wet.

He had left the house clouded in selfishness and bitterness. So much self involved he didn't look to see if the walkway of the locks was closed. While walking across the first half of the walkway, he was calling for the dog, who had run down the riverbank. The dog turned to follow. My husband turned just in time to see his next step into mid-air. There was no stopping.


Coming up for air, he looked up to the walkway to see our dog looking down and smiling at him. He says he knew it was God telling him to snap out of it - that it wasn't all-about-him.

That, ladies, is better than any resolution or approach any wife could manage. That, my friends, built my faith that God listens and participates in our lives.

I gave thanks that day (and repeatedly since) that, not only did God hear my prayers, but He was gracious to show me that He had heard me! I gave thanks that He cares for me in my role as a wife, as well as His daughter. I gave thanks that His plan for marriage is the best and only way to strive for perfection.

There have been times since then that I have tried to 'fix' my husband and each time God reminds me that that is His job. And, I give thanks again. Because nothing I could ever do would ever be as effective (and satisfying) as throwing my husband in a river!

What's the point of this story?

Father, teach me to be the woman You would have me to be regardless of the situations that may surround me. Open my eyes to be the wife my husband needs and remind me often that You will provide the husband I need. Amen
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughter ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers by not hindered.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
1Peter :4-9 (emphasis mine)


Holly said...

What a breath of fresh air this post was. I totally agree with you & feel the same way about the "martyr wife."
Thank you for sharing from your heart & for being real. Holly

Lori said...

Thanks for another great posting!

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow, I feel so inspired after reading this! What an uplifting testimony. Thank you for sharing!

Janet said...

A blessing to read. I agree - we do well to leave our spouses to the Lord...He does a far better job at reforming them than we could ever do!

Herb of Grace said...

Ahh, so beautiful! I love to find a sister-in-Christ who shares my thoughts in this area.

Jen sent me over :)

Anonymous said...

An Et Tu Jen reader here.

Great inspirational story. I hope to apply your lessons in my life.

I esp love the irony of "Dog needs water". God sure has a sense of humor!


Anonymous said...

I realize this comment comes rather late after the post.. sorry about that.

I have a story, and a question for you.

My mother is 65, and believes to this day that her husband should just _know_ what she wants or needs from him, without her having to say.

If you ask my step-dad, he'll tell you - after 20 years of marriage, he's still clueless about a lot of it. He still only knows to do the things that she's asked him to do.

Granted, there's a problem when a spouse just won't help around the house. Everybody knows there are cooking and dishes and general cleaning tasks to be done.

But - did you ever sit and divide up the chores? Did you ever actually talk about it?

There are a lot of cases of course where one of us really needs a "come to Jesus" dunk in a lake, and I don't doubt that your husband needed one. :)

God gave us the ability to communicate, too. We can and should hold each other accountable.

Iona C. said...

I found this post through Jennifer at Conversion Diary and I'm glad she linked to it. I'm not married, but I'll definitely keep this post in mind if God wills for me to be married. :) Thank you for your honesty!

Tara Sz. said...

Here from Conversion's encouraging to know that I won't have to throw my husband in a river. I can be patient and let God do it. :) Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement! I'll be back.

Mrs. Parunak said...

This is so great, Kim! I missed this the first time you posted it, but then I saw Jennifer's link to it, and got a second chance. What a blessing!

Leila said...

I came from Jen at Conversion Diary -- this is a very funny post. She suggested calling it "Dog Needs Water" -- my title is "Woman Refrains from Killing Husband"!

I so agree with your comments about women who think they are martyrs (and there are men like that too, who think their wives are the big problem in their lives).

It's all about how God wants us to know that we are the problem, not the other person. But if He graciously chooses to throw the other person in the river, why, then, chalk one up for us! ;)

Kim from Canada said...

Dear Anon,

I cannot recall ever having an 'official' conversation about who-does-what. However, we do have clear communication with each other - more so now than when we first were married.

Overall, in our marriage we both seek to serve each other. Meaning, there are days when my husband will simply start doing housework and there are days when my daughter and I will jump outside and cut lawn or shovel snow. Jobs which are 'traditionally' expected to be done by a particular spouse.

The one thing I know does NOT work for me or my husband is nagging. If he nags me about any house job - my natural bent is to put off that job as long as I can! Him, too.

It is always a work in progress when two sinners are trying to live together!

Leslie said...

oh my. this post is incredible. I cannot believe the way God answered your prayers, honored your struggle and woke up your husband with a big splash. So much better coming directly from God. I think that truly must be the only way. I will always think of this story and pray I have the faith to keep my mouth shut and trust that God can work things out if I only focus on what I need to be doing as a wife. Amazing.