Monday, July 3, 2017

Love and Respect: True Confessions

The last couple of months I have been challenged by various teachers, books, and Scripture to rethink my role as a wife and how, in many of our churches, well-meaning women have taught and promoted a distorted view (myself included).

How well we know the inward fight when husbands try to lead or direct us--that sinful tendency that doesn't want to (fill in the blank with anything, no matter how good or reasonable it is) just because someone else said so. We are so aware of the wrong response that we let go of the ship's wheel altogether. In our honest moments however, we might admit we don't want the responsibility and turning over the ship is easier than directing it together. The problem is, that's not loving--and it's not biblical.

God's plan was, and continues to be, for a husband and wife to work alongside one another. Yes, he's the leader. Yes, God has given us different roles for the journey. But it's not "his" ship or "her" ship, it's "our" ship. Both of us stand, feet planted, hands on the wheel, heading the same direction in life (see Genesis 1:28-31). Working together is hard. We want autonomy, not dependence. We'd much rather do it alone or independently than  cooperatively. How well I know! But too often, in our conservative churches, women have understood submission as swabbing the deck instead of helping direct the ship.

By withdrawing from an active role of loving and engaging with one's husband, what we call "submission" may be a deceitful cover for anxiety ("Just do it. I can't bear to look!), laziness ("I can't. It's too hard,"), or fear of rejection ("What if he gets mad at me?"). When wives fail to come alongside their husbands and perform the one another's of Scripture, families, husbands, children, wives, and churches suffer unnecessarily. God, in His wisdom, made man and woman in His image. You, wife, are a saint; redeemed, gifted, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to minister to the Body. Your husband is part of that Body. He is (or should be) a recipient of your spiritual gifts and ministry. He should be a recipient of unconditional, unselfish love. He is a brother in Christ.

Too often, in our distorted view of submission we quench the Spirit in marriage, fighting in our own strength, thinking we can stem the torrent of our sinful desire for control by saying nothing at all. If we don't address the heart issue of fear, laziness, or ignorance of God's ways, it wreaks havoc in other parts of our lives. If our deepest struggle is control, we could be like the little Dutch boy with his thumb in the dike while waves of manipulation and micromanagement roll over the top of the dam.

How our marriages would change if we trusted God with the outcome and focused on loving our husbands! What would happen if we adjusted our focus and used proper respect and submission not as a cover, but as a conduit for love? "That's a great idea." "I agree, but have you considered _____?" "Honey, I'm sure you intended well, but when you said/did _____ it came across this way: ___________?" "How can I help?" "What's the plan and how are we going to get there?"

It's not about being a mother, police, judge or jury to our husbands. Those are things we do (and are) in our pride and selfish ambition. Submission does not trump love--it carries it. Being a godly wife is about loving our husbands: seeking their good, directing them to God and His Word, listening, understanding, learning, serving, giving, doing, encouraging, comforting, providing wisdom and counsel, admonishing, confessing our sins, and stirring up good deeds. Even Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He chose love over what others saw as "right" because He understood, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10)

Have I done wrong to my neighbor? In trying to serve God have I abandoned my husband at the helm fighting waves, reading stars, and navigating dangerous waters alone? I am the steward of me. I can stand back and watch or take my place beside him lovingly helping and serving. No one knows my husband the way I do: his struggles, strengths, motivations, desires, cares, and general bent. I have the privilege and calling to speak truth, encourage, edify, and exhort him in a way that pleases the Lord.

As we learn to love our husbands well, robustly, honestly, wisely and sacrificially, God is honored and we are blessed.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:6-21)

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