Late again, I hustled out of the family van on Sunday morning, still brushing my son’s hair, buckling my daughter’s shoe – no time to apply my own makeup yet. Almost jogging to the back door of the church, I heard someone say, “Oh, there’s an elder’s wife who’s late. We are all good.”
I’d like to say I meant that sweet smile I glanced his way. But I didn’t. Inside, I was hurting. I had recently been wrestling with my role as just the wife of an elder. The words that man uttered jumped all over me. I already felt as though I was failing in my role as a wife and mother. Was our lateness a reflection of me “being a fool and tearing down my house” when I felt as though I was literally doing every last thing I could possibly do to “be wise and build up my home” (Proverbs 14:1)? I sighed and walked into church, late and defeated.
My husband just started his 4th year as an elder at our church, a high honor and one I deeply desire to wholly support. But it has been hard. The past three years have landed me home alone many evenings with our three children as my husband has tended to the needs of the church. Homework, rides, meals, laundry, dishes, lunches, school responsibilities and my part time job as a pediatric nurse practitioner have been a few of the things that have occupied my time. I have deeply desired to readily embrace my God-given role with our kiddos, but my flesh has been a beast to deal with as thoughts of jealousy, pride and “being side-lined” have threatened to overtake me.
I imagine a fictitious meme – a woman who makes dinner from scratch, washes, sorts and folds the laundry and intentionally assists all three of her children with their homework. She is definitely wearing a smile and a trendy (and flattering) apron. She is a well known Nurse Practitioner for her hospital having published numerous articles, spoken at national conferences and meets all productivity goals with ease. She is in tip top physical shape, playing tennis at the local country club where she heads up the annual charity drive for the local children’s hospital. I imagine her fully embracing her husband’s role in the church as an elder, as she leads a bible study on parenting from her home with childcare provided. She surely is on time everywhere. My “today’s version of the Proverbs 31 woman” is not who the bible, society or my elders describe! What am I thinking?!! Talk about a recipe for tearing down my house! I so know better!!
Just what does a “woman who builds her own home and does not tear it down” look like today? In my quest to find the answer, God has revealed many unhealthy thought patterns. One of the most important things I have done is to thoughtfully unpack the idea of mutual submission in marriage. Submission is beautifully described in the Bible as that of mutual love, affection and respect for the wife and husband. Submission, in God’s eyes, is modeled after our relationship with Christ and is supportive, edifying, forgiving and kind. It does not involve one being better than the other and lording over her. It does not involve jealousy or any type of power struggle. It promotes growth of both people as they recognize the ultimate model of submission to Christ.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” –Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)
I want to embrace my role as a woman who understands the beauty of my God given role as a wife and a mother. I want to fill my mind with the good words of the Lord and choose wisely what I allow to influence my mind. I must acknowledge the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He beckons me away from damaging messages from anything that is a perversion of His view of a mutually submissive marriage. I want to hear comments like the one about the “elder’s wife” being late and immediately embrace the honor associated with being called to be the wife on an elder instead of a knee jerk reaction of assumed judgement and expectation.
Our tardiness that Sunday morning had a lot more to do with being attentive to the various needs of my children than being a slacker who couldn’t keep all my mama-and-wife balls in the air. Our tardiness also taught me a valuable lesson about my heart and how I can grow in my relationship with my husband. Our tardiness had a much bigger purpose in God’s plan for me as a wife and a mom.
Sometimes, building up our homes looks like unbuckled shoes and halfway brushed hair. Sometimes, building up our homes looks a little more like the dirty dusty feet of Jesus and a lot less like my well-polished 1950’s style imaginary meme. Sometimes, building up our homes looks like being late to church.
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” -Proverbs 14:1
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)