Have you ever had a day when you realized something was just wrong? Maybe you suddenly found yourself thinking very negatively about your husband, about your children, about your marriage. Maybe you are worried about stuff that you just cannot solve.
So, take a minute and let's get it back together. Seriously.
Things look really bad sometimes, but that is all that is true. They "look" bad. Actually, everything is not what it appears. Your world looks terrible sometimes, but God remains God. He is still sovereign over all things and He still loves you.
Your life begins with that truth. To "get it back together," start with God. Take a minute and think about who God is and what God has done and what God has promised. Consider what God is doing:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before
the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Ephesians 1:3-4. If you are God's child, then you have been "chosen" to be "holy and blameless before him." Notice that you were not chosen to try to be holy and blameless, but to be holy and blameless. God will make you to be holy and blameless before him. In Jude, you are reminded that God is "able to present you blameless" before the throne.
So, in getting it all back together, start where God is. He is the one who is able and willing and determined to change your life. Let's start by getting in sync with him.
One of the most common responses among women is the "he ought to" response. This is really simple: upon hearing or reading that an Excellent Wife will have some characteristic or engaged in some action, the wife will respond "well, sure, but he ought to . . . ." These are words of failure.
What do I mean? Well, to put it simply, you cannot make people be what you think they ought to be. If you refuse to either obey God or be happy until someone else changes into your vision, then you will never obey God or be happy.
Men are men. Period. They are not women. More importantly, they are not you. Your husband does not like everything you like. He does not want everything that you want. No matter how close you feel to him, he remains a separate person. He remains a man.
Now, these things come up all the time. Wives will talk about how their husband "ought to" like something, usually food, a movie, or spending time in some particular way. "He ought to like going to the store with me," they will say despite repeated evidences to the contrary. "He ought to like being with my family," they will say despite not really liking their own family. "He ought to like" whatever movie or food or activity you like.
A few thoughts.
First, give up the idea that you can make him like something by hassling him over it. Telling a man "you ought to like shopping" will not make him like shopping. You cannot change reality with your wishes or your words. You cannot talk him into liking something. He will either like it or he won't like it. Handing him some food he hates and telling him "you ought to like this, it's really good" will not make it taste differently to him. Nagging does not get results. Or, to put it more accurately, it does not get the results you want.
Second, if you really need him to do something he hates, help him out. Do something that makes it more pleasant for him. If he does not like going to some "open house" at a school, then make it more pleasant by being more pleasant, by taking his arm, by acting as if he is not just someone who has to be there. When you are with family, do not just ignore him while you visit with everyone and tell him he should enjoy just sitting there.
Third, examine your own heart. Are you trying to make him someone different? He is the man you married. He is the man you picked. Maybe he doesn't like something you like, so what? It is not the end of the world. If there is a restaurant you like that he hates, then go there with a friend and leave him alone. Don't insist that he take you somewhere he hates. Accept him.
Fourth, and this is critical, don't be stupid about this. Here is what I mean -- a man will often do something he hates because he loves his wife. She wants to go see some "chick flick" and he does not want to see it. But she wants to see it and he loves her, so he goes. He engages in an act of self-denial because he loves you. Maybe he goes to see someone who is always mean to him, but is special to you. Maybe he takes you to the restaurant he hates because you love it.
Here is the stupid part -- women will be angry at him because he does not like it. If he goes to a movie with you, watches it with you, and is pleasant to you, then why do you care that he didn't like it? Women will get angry and tell their husbands "but you should like it." They will become angry because he did something out of love (he went for her) rather than to seek his own pleasure (because he liked it). This is a constant amazement to men. How can a woman be angry with me because I took her somewhere she wanted to go solely because I loved her so much?
If your husband takes you somewhere he does not want to go (a movie, a concert, a yard sale, something), he has engaged in an act of love. He has done something because he loves you and you should be thrilled.
I heard a man on the radio say once that he broke up with a girl over this. She wanted to see a movie and he did not want to see it, but he agreed to go see it with her because she wanted to see it so much. Then, she became angry and refused to go see it unless he "was going because he wanted to see it." She demanded that he go for a selfish reason or not at all. She refused to let him love her.
Do not be foolish with ":he ought to" standards. He is who he is. Let him be who he is.
One of the most common problems for the Excellent Wife is dealing with, well, let's call it the "unfortunate reality" that husbands make a lot of mistakes. They forget things we think they should remember, they break things they are trying to fix, they miss turns and get lost when driving, etc., etc. Each of you could add to the list.
What do you do when he makes a mistake? Well, I can tell you what not to do. Don't have a fit.
There are several things that go through a man's mind when he has made a mistake. He is mad at himself for making a mistake. He is embarrassed to have made a mistake in front of you. He is trying to figure out how to resolve the situation created by his mistake. He is, as modern people like to say, "under stress." So, are you part of his stress?
Wives, for some reason, seem to love to attack a man when he makes a mistake. I have never figured this one out because it is so obviously self-defeating. If a man is fixing something at home and breaks it or makes it worse, the wife, too often, adds to his stress. "I told you that you couldn't fix it," she will say. If he misses a turn, she will yell at him and keep at him about it. "Why didn't you turn back there? You know that's where you are supposed to turn. Now, we're going to be late. You are always going the wrong way." For every husband mistake, there are reams of wifely responses that make things worse.
Next time he makes a mistake (which will not be very long from now), think a minute. Your job, as a Christian and a wife, is not to make things worse. Things are already bad because he made a mistake, are you going to add to the stress or help resolve it? What does God say to you?
First, do you need to say much at all? He is already embarrassed. He knows he was wrong. Does he need you to tell him he was wrong? Sometimes, quiet is the best response: "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." Pro. 10:19.
Second, do you need to speak rashly? Almost never. "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Pro. 12:18. We know the Excellent Wife is a wise wife ("she opens her mouth in wisdom"), so whatever she says should bring healing, not more hurt. After all, you are called to be gracious in your speech: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Col. 4:6. Think a minute.
Third, whatever you speak must be to edify, to build up, to strengthen him. "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Eph. 4:29. Overhearing conversations in public places shows how unusual this attitude is, as most people seem only to want to unload their feelings, not give grace to anyone else.
Finally, I know you may be angry. We can talk another time about why these things make you angry, which is a problem in itself, but you have no right to speak in anger. The word is quite clear: "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." Col. 3:8. You cannot speak in anger.
So he missed a turn. The question is what to do next and the answer is turn somewhere else or turn around. Yelling at him or abusing him or trying to make him seem small or using him to unload your anger is not the answer. So he broke something? The question is what to do next and reminding him of other things he has broken ("you always break everything") is not the answer.
Conversation is not about unloading your anger, your fear, or your bitterness, but about building up the person to whom you speak. Even your husband.
What are you doing with today that has real value? Consider the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:
I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me
with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children
of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works.
I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and
planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the
forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were
born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any
who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold
and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and
many concubines, the delight of the children of man.
Sounds like a pretty successful guy, doesn't it? He had houses and gardens and parks and vineyards and great possessions. He was living "the high life" of his day. He summed it up this way: "So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem."
He had spent his days in pursuing great things and obtaining them. He "became great." And, when all was said and done, he concluded this: "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."
So, let me ask again, "What are you doing with today that has real value?"
If your day is spent entirely on your house, on your garden, on your fruit trees, on your treasures, then the answer is that you are doing nothing that has real value.
Do something today that has real value. Comfort a friend. Visit someone who is lonely. Visit someone who is a shut-in. Do something of eternal value that, at the end of the day, brings you nothing but the peace and pleasure of knowing your day was worthwhile.
Well, it's Monday again. That's just the way it is. Monday comes every seven days whether we want it to or not.
In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher begins with this reality of our lives -- that they are repetitive beyond belief.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
Around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
To the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new"?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
Ecc. 1:3-10. How true this is! All of the things of earth seem old and flat and featureless to us sometimes. It is hot now (it is August). It was hot last year at this time and will be hot next year at this time. It is just alway hot at this time. It was cold last January and will be cold this January. Every day is the same: sun rises, sun shines, sun sets. It is often windy, but never runs out of wind. The rain comes and the water goes and the rain comes again. "All things are full of weariness."
You see, life won't make itself exciting for you. Life won't keep you happy and busy and satisfied and fulfilled. Life is just life. You have to do the work.
The same is true in your marriage. How often have you wanted to "do something," but could not think of anything? Have you ever complained to your husband that "we never do anything," but you did not have anything to offer? Does it seem that your life together is "full of weariness"?
Make up your mind that today will not be a day of weariness, but of happiness. Decide that you will no longer wait and wish for someone else to think of "something to do," but will think of something and do it yourself.
Life gets old very quickly once you are grown, unless you keep making it worth living. Make today worth living. It is the only day you have available.
When I first began putting together material on being an Excellent Wife, it just seemed like another important topic on which the Bible provides a great deal of information. It never occurred to me that people would object to having a man put together such a class. But they did.
In fact, it has been one of the most common questions I receive. Shouldn't a woman teach this? Isn't it wrong for you to teach this? Well, yes and no.
First, of course women can and ought to teach on being an Excellent Wife. Titus 2 makes that point abundantly clear. As we all know, the reality is that this happens very seldom in our churches. Too often, people interpret Titus 2 to mean "have a video series shown on Wednesday night." Actually, Titus 2 envisions a very different world of teaching and learning, one in which teaching is part of the testimony of the older women and is not limited to schedules and church buildings. But, still, women certainly can and should teach women how to love their husbands.
But, secondly, that does not mean men cannot teach what the Bible says as well. As a teacher of God's word, I am to teach all of God's word. I am not to say to God that some topics are not teachable, because all topics are teachable. I am not to tell God that I just will not do some things, but I am to teach what is needed in my church. Paul says that older women are to teach. He never says men are to keep silent.
There are three very good reasons for me to teach on this topic.
First, as I noted, I am a teacher. That is what I do. I teach God's word to men, women, and even children. I teach all that is in God's word, leaving out nothing. To try and separate things out as being "not teachable" is not my job.
Second, the Bible gives me an abundance of material for the Excellent Wife. As you will see from the website, there are a lot of truths provided to us. In addition to Titus 2, we have Proverbs 31, multiple individual verses in Proverbs, and multiple stories and images from throughout scripture. To simply ignore all these things, gifts from God to us, would be foolishness.
Third, I am a married man. Some people think that being a man disqualifies me, but that is absurd. Who better to teach about being an Excellent Wife than a man? As a man, I know how men feel much better than the women who teach on the topic, so I can give specific guidance on dealing with men and understanding men and coping with the oddities of men. I can explain, better than most women, why men act as they do, and help women learn how to "do them good and not evil all the days of their lives."
In short, I can teach this topic because God has gifted me to teach, because God has given me extensive teachings on the topic, and because God has given me the experiences and understanding to explain and elaborate on those teachings.
I honor those women who teach on this topic (as with all worthwhile topics), but the reality is that any Excellent Wife must, by definition, have a husband, a man, with whom she deals. Sometimes, having a man explain things is a great advantage. Sometimes, I am afraid, wives come to believe that being an Excellent Wife is just a "woman issue," when it is not. It is an issue for the church to address, a problem for the church to solve, and a glorious gift for the church to redeem.
Well, it's here again. Football season. For whatever reason, this tends to be a problem for some couples.
The problem, normally, is that the husband likes football a lot and the wife likes it little or not at all. The husband wants to spend Saturday watching his college team and Sunday watching his pro team. The wife wants to do "something else." When children are in high school, you can add Friday night games to the list. This is a huge, gigantic, unbelievably big problem!
Well, actually, it isn't that big a problem. Most college football games are on in the early afternoon, which is not exactly a great time for doing "something else," which can be done on Saturday morning or Saturday night. Four hours on Saturday afternoon is not really the end of your marriage, is it?
Now, if you like football as much as your husband likes it, then no problem. If you don't, then give this some thought.
For four hours on Saturday and, again, on Sunday, you have free time. You can go shopping, take a nap, work on your memoirs, or spend time on Facebook with friends. In fact, you can do just about anything as long as the game is on. Trust me. He won't mind.
The same thing applies on Sunday.
But, beyond the practical, there is this: it is just a game. That's what you tell him over and over, right? It's just a game.
So, to the annoyed wife, think a minute. It's just a game. It gives him pleasure for several hours, pleasure that does not require him to stand in the heat (or cold) watching children stand in lines to do things. It does not require him to deal with customers or face his boss or worry about his bank account. All that time you have at home (if you are a stay at home mom) during the day, that free time in the sense of no boss present, that is his football time.
It's just a game.
This is one of those little things that tell us a lot about being excellent wives. How do you deal with football? Do you deal in love, or not?
Sitting in a restaurant, I was suddenly struck by the sheer size of people around me. I realized that every single person in the restaurant was overweight. This is really amazing.
But even more amazing is that most of them were couples and, apparently, married. And very happy together. They were talking and laughing together. Their love for each other was clear in every comment they made. Hmmm.
I seldom see this in a restaurant. Usually, there are some happy couples, some sad couples, and some people who just seem like strangers sitting across from each other. But, on this day, they were all happy couples.
Too many of us think that the key to our happiness in marriage is in external things. We think "he would love me if I weren't so fat" or "I could love him if he would lose some weight." We see letters to advice columns complaining that "I just can't love him with all that weight" or complaining that "if she loved me, she wouldn't be so overweight." Yet, here I am, in a restaurant filled with overweight people who seem to love each other.
It is amazing how hard we work to excuse our unhappiness, to make it someone else's fault (why is he fat) or something else's fault (it's my weight that's the problem), when it is really about loving each other.
Do not let today be a day of excuses and falsehoods. Love your husband. If you are overweight, so what? Love him anyway. Adding the sin of being unloving will not cure your weight problem.
If he is overweight, so what? Love him anyway. Refusing to love him will not make him skinny.
Love is not about who he is or about how much you weigh, it is a decision you make. Love your husband. Whoever he is. Whoever you are. Love your husband today.
In the movie Superman II (yes, it's old, but it's still around), the major plot point involves Superman giving up his powers (becoming human) in order to be with Lois Lane. It is obvious to everyone that this is a really bad idea, but it is still in the movie. Later, he is beaten up by a man in a diner. Lois tells him she just wants "the man I love," he replies "I wish he were here."
I wish he were here.
What Lois and Superman had never considered was that, in reality, he was everything that he was. She believed that she loved "him," but never really thought about who he was. He believed that he loved her, but never considered that part of who he was was, well, Superman. Giving up his powers meant being someone else, whom, perhaps, neither he nor Lois would love.
Who do you love?
Women are often caught in Lois's dilemma. You married a man with a certain idea of who he was (or who he would be), but find yourself with someone very different. You married someone you considered to be a "superman" but who turned out to be much different (perhaps less) than you expected. What do you do now?
Well, you love them. That's the command.
Unlike Superman, we do not have the option of simply "giving up" on what we are. Your husband cannot be anyone but who he is. He can change little things here and there, and God can make changes in him, but he is who he is. He is who you married. You may not have known it, but that is who you married.
He cannot get into a chamber and come out as someone different.
In the "olden days," men and women were often unknown to each other when they married. I think, in some ways, that might be easier, because there would be no sense of disappointment. You would get to know him as you were married, as opposed to having your opinion change after marrying him. You would deal with the actual man, not your dream of what he might become.
The man you married is not Superman. He has weaknesses and failings. So love him anyway. Love him not because he is "everything," but because he is your husband. Grow with him (because, believe it or not, he is feeling the same way about you).
Did you think it was different for him? He had ideas, too, and his ideas have also proven to be false in many ways. So, get to know each other as you really are. Acceptance and love go together very well.
I know, we all know, that Sunday is the "first day of the week." But, for most people, it doesn't feel that way at all. Monday is the first day of the week in most people's minds and experiences.
And it is not usually a happy first day either. We tend to awaken tired and groggy (because we have different sleep patterns on weekends) and go to work, which is not as much fun as staying home. For a lot of people, of course, they work through the weekends and have different experiences but they can identify with the "Monday" feeling, even if it is another day for them.
Do something great today. It's Monday. In most of the country, it is hot. Children are headed back to school down here in Georgia. The fall seems too far away and the heat just continues. And it's Monday.
Do something great today. Do something for your husband today. In some way, make an effort to make this a really good day. Be positive in your conversations with him. (Have you ever thought about what your morning conversations are like?) Be happy when he gets home. In country music terms, be happy that he gets home.
Do something. Make today a special day, not just another Monday.