We are on a family trip. Almost all of us take trips as a family every now and then. How do you see these trips?
When you are first married, trips are for both partners in the relationship, You spend time together and do things you both enjoy. Then, the children come and the years pass. Family trips become real "family trips," mostly aimed at the younger members of the family. Over time, trips often become just more work for the parents. You and your husband become facilitators of youthful joy and have no real vacation of their own.
Often, these trips are a frustration for both parents. You share hotel rooms (so no love making) and meals (so no romancing) and, when it is all over, you fall exhausted into your home. No vacation for parents. And often, it becomes harder and harder to enjoy one another at all.
No matter what it takes, no matter how hard it may be, you need to avoid this problem. Find some way to have some vacation time with your husband. Keep your temper at all times. Be pleasant in the car while traveling, pleasant when at meals, pleasant whenever possible. Take his hand, kiss him, sit close to him. You are not babysitters, you are parents, married partners for life.
Even if you have no privacy on a trip, make him know that you wish you had some privacy, that you still love him, and that he is still the most important person in the world to you.
Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like everything takes longer than usual? It is a normal morning, but, somehow, you end up behind what you wanted to accomplish. It can be disturbing and can lead to yet more "putting things off." There is a kind of mindset that says "well, it's late, I'll just have to put this off."
Our duties as husbands and wives often fall into this category as well. We listen to classes and read books about what we "ought to be," but we know that we are not, in fact, what we ought to be. But we are not newlyweds, we have been married for several years. We were trying our best but, somehow, we ended up late. It seems like it would be so hard to start now.
Maybe you have never really been an excellent wife. You thought you were doing "pretty well," but God wants you to be excellent. Maybe you think that it would just upset everything to try and change now. After all, you have stayed married (unlike so many friends) and your husband seems okay with how you are. Things aren't wonderful, but you are getting by. There is a strong temptation to just leave it alone and keep getting by.
When you think this way, spend a little time thinking not just of faithful service (which obviously requires much more care), but of your future. Perhaps you have been so focused on children that you have not "had time" (taken time) to be an excellent wife. But one day the children will be gone, and what then? Maybe you have been trying so hard to be a good church member or a good citizen or a good employee that you have not had time to be an excellent wife. But being a good church member or a good citizen or a good employee does not bring the joy that a good marriage can bring.
There may be almost no love left, but it is not really too late. God is sovereign over all things. He knows your history and your trials. He knows the temptations and the failures. He knows all that you have done. And He wants you to be an excellent wife.
Start today. Sure it's late. So what? Start now. Do something today that makes life better for your husband. Clean up something that has lain dormant too long. Think of a way to be romantic that your husband would like (not just something from some magazine).
Do not let "being late" end up as an excuse for failure. How many wives have looked back and thought of all they could have done differently? How many have sat in old age with the husband they love and been glad for all they did do differently.
As long as your husband lives, it is never too late to be an excellent wife. Nor is it too early.
Today is the day.
Here is your "pop test," a decades long favorite of teachers everywhere..
We have talked about a lot of things that characterize an excellent wife. How have you been doing this last 24 hours?
An excellent wife is worthy of trust.
So, how was yesterday and this morning? Did you behave as a person who is worthy of trust? In your conversations with friends, how "anti-husband" were you? Did you have a time of complaining about him? Did you act carefully with the things that are entrusted to you?
An excellent wife does her husband good every day of his life, and not evil.
What good did you do for your husband yesterday? Again, as we discussed before, this is not about regular chores, but about things that you do to make his life better. Did you cook anything special? Did you leave him a note he could find about your love for him? Did you do anything, yesterday, to remind him of why he married you in the first place?
An excellent wife is diligent.
This is pretty simple, isn't it? How diligent were you yesterday? How much of what needed to be done did you accomplish yesterday?
An excellent wife is wise.
What did you do yesterday that reflected the wisdom that comes from God? When your children fought (or your co-workers fought), were you a voice of reason and calm? Did you manifest your "deeds in the gentleness of wisdom," as James tells us in scripture? Did you avoid foolish arguments and give up trying to score meaningless points against others?
An excellent wife has a gentle and quiet spirit.
Was yesterday a day of gentle and quiet? Did your husband come home to a gentle and quiet home, or a home of noise and anxiety?
It's just a quick pop quiz. Five easy questions.
How did you do?
Sometimes, we get caught up in complicated measures of how good we are doing at being a wife. So, I have a really simple question for you to answer. How did things go this morning at your house?
After everyone is gone (who is going), sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and go back over the morning. Women, I believe, do not often take retrospective looks at their morning. They do not sit down and think about it. So, sit down and think about it.
Was there a moment of warmth between you and your husband this morning? Was there a kiss, a hug, a prayer, a time of togetherness? No? Well, that's not a good sign, is it? Yes? Nicely done.
Did he leave (if he left) knowing that he had a loving, vibrant wife at home who loved him? No? Yes?
If you left this morning, to go to your job, did you leave him with a kiss, with a hug, with some knowledge that you would rather be with him than on your job? Yes? No?
What happened this morning? It's a very simple question.
We all have times when we seem extremely busy. My family is in the midst of one of those times. We have family visiting us and high school graduation and a son in Army boot camp (just a few days left). We have work and classes to teach and questions to answer and bills to pay. A month ago was much more peaceful, a month hence will be more peaceful, but now is not peaceful.
Yet, I can be peaceful. This is one of the great gifts of God, the ability to be at peace when your situation is not peaceful. It is one of the primary strengths of the excellent wife, that she remains at peace. She may be in the midst of a storm, but she is at peace.
Peace comes from knowing that God is sovereign over all things. God is not "reacting" to events, He governs events. He is not shocked that someone ran a light and hit your car. He is not disappointed that your washing machine broke down just when you needed it most. He is not outraged at your neighbors for having a late night party. He is sovereign.
The old Japanese had a saying for their emperor. He was said to "reign, but not to rule." This meant that although he was emperor, he did not actually make decisions. His job was to "be the emperor" and he was to allow the democratic government to make decisions, He did not set tariffs or plan highways. Yet, he reigned.
Many of us have the same idea of God. We think He is not really ruling His universe. We believe that He needs us to worry about things. We are wrong. He not only reigns, He rules.
Once you understand that God reigns and rules, you can sing while imprisoned, as Paul did. You can worship when your ship sinks, as Paul did. You can patiently endure trials, as Paul did.
You can also take care of your family without needless drama. Your yelling will not change things for the better. Verbally abusing a child will not make the child more godly or wise. "Throwing a fit" will not make your marriage relationship stronger. The godly woman is a woman of peace, just as the godly man is a man of peace.
My busy weekend exists because God has so ordained the schedules and activities of my life. It is not because I signed up for a lot of nonsense, but because this is how God established it for me. So, I endure it. I remain at peace during graduations and during basic training and during all things, because I know that "all things work together for good" on my behalf.
Even on Mondays.
Do you ever have a "blah" kind of day? A day where nothing "feels right." You know what you are supposed to do, but just don't feel like doing it. You are supposed to take care of the house or finish a work project, but just waste time. You are supposed to be a loving wife, but just don't have the energy. What do you do?
This is one of those questions that our grandmothers would not have understood. One of the most important changes in our culture has been the elevation of "how we feel" to be more important than "what we do." I remember, as a child, being told that my feelings did not matter, the grass needed to be mowed. How I felt about mowing the grass did not impact the grass at all. Our grandmothers had that attitude toward their marriages. They had duties to perform and dedicated themselves to performing those duties. They learned to take pleasure in accomplishing good for themselves and those they loved.
Ultimately, this is one of the keys to being an excellent wife. No one can be an excellent wife if what they do depends on how they feel, because they will often not feel like doing anything at all. They will not be diligent in their work, but will be spotty in their work. They will take care of things only when they are "in the mood," and that means they are self-focused, not focused on loving their husband or children. Facebook is more fun than laundry and a woman who spends her day on Facebook instead of doing what needs to be done is not an excellent wife.
Women are often told to "trust their feelings," but the Bible tells wives to "love their husbands." Your love for your family should be your motive, not serving your own desires. The excellent wife has many things that bring her pleasure, but they include the things that make her a great wife.
Your husband has days like this as well. He has days he does not want to go to work. What does he do on those days? He goes to work. There are days that he does not want to spend at Band concerts for the children, but he goes because he is their father. He has "blah" days, just like you do, but he keeps doing his job.
You should keep doing your job, filling your role (which is much more important than you think). A blah day is just another day, requiring a little more effort.
But love is always about effort.
One of the difficult issues for many women is that love involves sacrifice. This is one of the things that we often miss. We think far too highly of our own "sacrifices" and far too little of the care offered by others. For example, a wife may think of her husband's jobs as something he does for himself and she will not value his work as a gift to her at all. He, on the other hand, knows that he must keep his job for her sake and will put up with many things he would otherwise never put up with.
We have an odd situation where everyone wants to judge everyone else's service. Wives are quick to tell you how their husbands fail, but very slow to admit how they fail. They will get angry with a husband's failure but will expect a husband to forgive their own failures.
Things should be the opposite. Wives ought to forgive their husbands readily and without complaint (just as they should forgive everyone readily and without complaint). When a husband forgets to complete a task, she should be forgiving and kind, not judgmental and cutting. This is the sacrifice that love makes.
How do I know this? Because Christ left me an example. He prayed even for men who were, at the moment, crucifying him. Yet we have Christian wives who will not forgive a husband for his failure to stop and get milk on his way home from work.
Love sacrifices all. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
So, do you lay down your life for your husband? Do you accept who he is and that he is not who you would like him to be? Do you read "romantic novels" and watch "chick flicks" and wish that someone else were your husband? Do you compare him to others of whom you know very little and tell him how poorly he compares?
Or do you accept that he is your husband? Do you love and care for and support him?
If your husband fails (and all husbands fail), where does he turn for kindness and love?
Sometimes, we find ourselves sitting at a mall (or some other place where people walk around and shop and eat). Next time you are there, try to notice the couples around you.
You will see all types of couples, of all ages, walking and sitting and shopping and eating. What do they do? Have you ever noticed how differently couples interact in public?
There are couples who appear to be just roommates. They walk with each other, but never touch. They do not talk very much.
There are couples who talk just to argue. They can be loud and obnoxious and you don't really like sitting near them.
There are couples who walk together and they often touch. They may hold hands or she may take his arm. He waits for her to go first on an escalator or she gets napkins for everyone. They talk, but not all the time. Sometimes, they just sit by each other, comfortable with each other.
What is most amazing is that age has nothing to do with these categories. You see young couples who fight and old couples who seem so in love that it brings tears to your eyes. You see couples where one is in a wheelchair, but they still touch and talk and share the experience. You see loving couples with children and also cold couples with children.
What I would like you to think about is actually two things. First, ask yourself how couples who all started out "in love" can be so different once they are married? Why are some couples so affectionate while others appear so cold or even hostile to one another? I saw, at an airport once, a couple of probably 45 or so, both quite plain, but they clearly showed their love for each other just in how they related going down a long escalator. What is the secret of keeping such affection in a marriage?
Second, how do you and your husband look to the people sitting in that mall and watching? Do they see warmth and caring and touching and sharing? Or do they see two people who are with each other, but only because they are married and "have to be together?" Do they see arguments or sharing? Do they see touching or coldness?
A mall can be a very expensive place to shop, but also a very educational place to observe. What are people observing of you? If I saw you and your husband on my next trip to the mall, what would I think of your relationship?
I will give you a clue, though. You do not generate warmth by asking him to act warm, but by being warm yourself.
We played in the Georgia State Tennis Tournament this weekend. The tournament was hosted in my hometown, so this (for me) was just a busy tennis weekend. Get up, go play, go home. Pretty simple. But there was something at the tournament that was interesting. Wives and husbands. Lots of them. Many with small children (older children, of course, were in school).
From all over the state, husbands and wives came to this tournament. Many couples played tennis together (not in this tournament, but in mixed doubles tournaments). Many couples were just together because they are, you know, married. They love each other. While playing our matches, our opponents wives would watch and cheer their husbands shots (even not really great shots). They would greet them after the match with a kiss and a hug. They had evenings together in a new town and you could hear them talking about restaurants to visit as you walked around. They had a great time at this tennis tournament.
Would you have gone with your husband to a tennis tournament? Does he want you to go with him?
There are too many couples where the wife would not want to go and the husband would prefer she stay home. Why? Because she would complain all the time and make both of them miserable. She would not go because she loved being with her husband, but because she wanted to keep an eye on him. She would complain about the times of the matches and the boredom of watching her husband play tennis..
But some women love watching their husbands play tennis. No, seriously. They do. Even though he is not very good (we are 3.5 players, which means average players). They love watching him play tennis because they love him. Does that sound silly to you? If so, then that is a really sad commentary on how you feel about your husband.
Do you love your husband? Do you love seeing him do something he enjoys? These women did love their husbands. And the pride and pleasure their husbands took in their love was obvious to see.
There were some great matches at the tournament this weekend. Only a few were on the tennis court.
The rest were for life.
As we work through what it means to be an excellent wife, we keep hitting one truth over and over. Being an "excellent wife," in almost every respect, means being an "excellent person." You are told to be kind, but so is your husband. You are told to be gentle, but so is your husband. You are told to fear God, but so is your husband. You are told to be wise, but so is your husband.
Eventually, you get down to the real battle. Who goes first? Who has to "be gentle" first? Who has to "be wise" first? Who "gets to be selfish" while the other one practices graciousness?
This is a false question, because it presumes that someone is "supposed to be first." I have heard preachers say "if men would just be what they are supposed to be, women would naturally follow." I have been in classes where we men were told that it was "up to us" to be first. Why? Given how often we disobey and ignore God, who is the greatest of all husbands, who thinks that a man's obedience is going to somehow cause a wife to quit being who she is.
The Bible never suggests that one person's obedience to God depends on someone else "going first." God expects you to do what you are supposed to do. You are not at a stop sign waiting for the next driver to take his turn, you are traveling a road at high speed and you had better do what you are required to do. "He has to stop first" is not a good rule for drivers or for wives.
Besides, how would you decide that he had "already gone first" if that is your standard? Too many wives will say that what a husband does somehow determines what they do. "He makes me so mad," they will say, not realizing that they are confessing their own weakness. What if he is "getting wiser" but is not yet "fully wise?" Does that excuse your failure? What if he is wise for several days and then does something foolish, does that allow you to do something foolish in return?
Finally, who made you the judge?
This is what it comes down to in many marriages. The husband and wife sit as judges of one another's righteousness or one another's maturity. They each decide how to behave based on how they feel about what the other one did that morning. She will cook a nice meal if he sends her flowers, but if he forgets her birthday he can just eat hot dogs. She will clean up the kitchen if he was sweet about going to a children's event, but will stay in bed stewing if he complained or didn't go.
These wives have decided that they can ignore God and punish their husbands because they have taken God's seat as the judge. Remember that scripture says we are not allowed to take our vengeance on others. We are not allowed to punish our husbands because they failed at something.
God punishes. Excellent wives love their husbands.
Who goes first? You do. Because God's command to you is to love your husband. And your desire is to please God.