Friday, March 28, 2008
Lux Venit Reading Group: The Excellent Wife
Leslie's reading group has begun with Martha Peace's book, The Excellent Wife. You can read her discussion of Chapter one here, and she has also linked to others who have blogged about it today. I mentioned earlier that I was apprehensive about reading this book. The reason is that I know that I fall short in this area. This is one of those topics that is controversial because it goes against the grain of everything we are taught in our culture about what women should want for themselves. Even Christian women bristle when that dreaded word, “submission,” is mentioned. I think part of the reason is that we don’t really understand Biblical submission appropriately. Another reason is that we are fallen people. It goes all the way back to the Fall and the curse of sin which has marred our response to and understanding of our created roles.
I came to a rather distressing realization several years ago. I realized that many of my subtle underlying thoughts and assumptions about womanhood reflected more of our culture’s unbiblical view than it did a biblical one. This was distressing because I was saved as a young girl and have wanted all my life to live as a Christian should. It was distressing because I realized that I had bought some of the subtle lies and assumptions that are all around us, and I had not even noticed how they shaped my attitudes and thinking. I had rejected many of the obvious errors, but had accepted more subtle ones which, while I had been spared much of the heartache that would accompany the major errors, I am beginning to see just how much wrong thinking I had actually bought into without even knowing it. I am also having a subtle change in thinking about how I want to live. Rather than thinking I want to live as a Christian should, I am beginning now to see that I want to live for Christ. Subtle word change, but a vastly different way of thinking. It takes the focus off of a rather legalistic view of life to one of living for the sheer joy of knowing my Savior and for the love of Him.
I know what I wrote in the first paragraph is kind of vague, but I don’t really want to address a laundry list of the specific wrong assumptions of womanhood that the Lord is graciously revealing to me and peeling away like onion skin from my heart, but I wanted to give a little insight into why I had mentioned earlier that I was a little apprehensive about reading this book. I have always found Proverbs 31 to be intimidating. I am uncomfortable reading about that excellent wife, because left on my own I don’t look very much like her. I have mentally embraced and accepted the things I know the Bible teaches about wives being submissive to their husbands, and I have been fairly confident that I was just that. The problem is, if I turn a magnifying glass on my heart and am honest with myself, I know that I do not think deeply enough about what being a godly wife looks like here in my home, in my marriage. I know that much more often than not I am very selfish. I know that I fall short.
Here are a few thoughts that grabbed me from Chapter one. First of all, the idea that a Christian wife’s primary ministry is to her husband, that we are not to just give him what is left over at the end of the day was significant to me. I cannot say this is something I did not know. I did. You can’t have as many Sunday School lessons and whatnot on the topic of Christian marriage as I’ve experienced and not learn that concept. But I have to say I have not really thought enough about what it means, what it looks like day to day for me specifically. I am a mom, but I am a wife first. My relationship to Christ comes first, then my marriage. That is something it is so easy to let slide in the day to day of being mom. Being a mom is exhausting, no lie. But I must not let that be an excuse to not invest energy in my ministry to my husband. I think this is also something we married women need to consider when we fall into that spiral of wishing for some big, significant ministry to define our lives. When we are married, we do have an important ministry. But we are so inundated with the notion that we’re to be super woman and have it all, that we’re supposed to be doing something important that makes a difference, that we sometimes fall into the trap of downplaying how significant our calling to minister to our husbands actually is. So, that is something I want to ponder more.
Another thing that stuck with me was the section dealing on our sin problem. She listed several descriptions of what sin is and one that has stayed in my mind is this one: “It is presuming God will help her even when she is neglecting His truth.” I want very much to apply what I learn to my life, not to neglect His truth. I don’t want to just hear it and mentally nod my head in agreement but somehow neglect to flesh it out and live it. I think so many times I can just trudge along and do not purposely think about what is His truth regarding how I am to relate to my husband and not examine how well am I obeying that truth.
Then I read a subheading that really rubbed raw my temptation to whitewash any failing as a wife. It said: Wives Are Without Excuse. Ouch. Why are wives without excuse? Here’s what Martha Peace said in that section:
“Because God has so richly provided for a Christian wife in her battle against sin, she is without excuse. Her loving, merciful, and holy God has truly provided everything she needs to become a godly wife – to become the excellent wife that God wants her to be. And even when she falls short, she can be forgiven. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).”
The thing is, I am not left to myself to be an excellent wife. It would be very easy to turn this whole ‘excellent wife’ thing into another legalistic burden. But, when we begin to see that God has created us, and we can trust His way and trust that His way is truly what is best for us, we can begin to see that it is really a joy to obey, not a burden, not a list of do’s and don’t’s but a hedge of protection. As a believer in Christ, I have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to enable me to trust and obey the Word of God in all areas of life, including my ministry as wife.
Whether I embrace biblical truth in this area or bristle at the truth that goes against the grain of what so many, many voices and thoughts and attitudes and assumptions all around me are saying is ultimately a heart issue. My submission first and foremost is to Christ. That submission to His sovereign lordship means that I must learn what His Word says about being a godly wife. And I must trust Him to teach me to obey His Word. It really doesn’t matter how many wrong assumptions I may have bought into, or how many people in our culture may bristle at these teachings, or even what anyone else, including my husband, is doing. What matters is that I learn to apply God’s Word to my life. I am responsible to obey God. What joy there is in learning to do things His way. He is, after all, the One who created us, so therefore, He knows what is best for us. May I be found faithful.