White Wedding

I’m the first to admit that, like most women, I have a secret Pinterest board full of all things wedding. Lace, sequins, and sparkly trinkets abound on that secret “maybe someday” spot. It’s fun to dream about having a “big day” of epic romantic proportions. I remember spending entire afternoons in high school with my best friend clipping out pictures of wedding dresses and bouquets of flowers out of Brides magazine. That was the low tech version of Pinterest back in the day.

As girls, from the moment we watched our first Disney Princess movie, we started dreaming about the day all our friends would gather to watch us exchange vows in a beautiful gown. We imagine we would float around the dance floor effortlessly in the arms of our prince charming. My five year old daughter is already planning her wedding and mine, simultaneously. She loves looking at Pinterest with me and oohing and aahing at the pretty dresses and sparkly engagement rings. It’s fun and silly, but it’s misplaced energy.

We spend years dreaming of the perfect day, but how much time do we spend preparing for a lifetime of a healthy, strong marriage? A few weeks of required pre-marital counseling at best for most. Americans spend upwards of $35,000 for one day. But are unwilling to invest much time or money into the rest of their marriages. It’s embarrassing, really. No wonder the divorce rate is so high!

So how do we turn that around for our own future marriages? I’m glad you asked! I just so happen to have a few suggestions.

#1 Study what the Bible says about marriage and spousal roles. Learn about the intended design for marriage directly from the Source! God had a plan from the very beginning for marriage and family. He is the first and best resource for discovering how to prepare for marriage.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” -2 Timothy 3:16

#2 Read Christian books on the topics of intentional dating and marriage. There are some excellent books on this topic. Here are a few that I’ve read and highly recommend: Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler, You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, The Right One: How to Successfully Date and Marry the Right Person by Jimmy Evans  If you don’t like to read, try Audible.com. All of the above titles are available and the info is so worth it!

“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” -Ecclesiastes 1:13

#3 Listen to Christian podcasts and Youtube sermons on the topic of marriage. When I first started studying the topic of Christ-centered marriage and intentional dating, I binge-watched Francis Chan and Matt Chandler. Also, Pastor Michael Todd has an excellent series on the topic here. The important thing is to find biblically sound teachers with healthy views on marriage. It changed my perspective in the best ways!

“For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” -Proverbs 24:6

#4 Pray for opportunities to learn how to be a good spouse. Even before your married, God will teach you how to be a godly spouse. I prayed for this about 10 months ago and it has changed me from the inside out. In addition to studying books and sermons, I asked God to give me real life opportunities to put marital skills into practice. And He has definitely provided!

“Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” -James 4:2b

#5 Pray for your future spouse. Ever since I was a young girl, I was told to pray for my future husband. I did occasionally, but not consistently. I never knew what to pray for him. But one of the best books I’ve read during this preparation phase is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie OMartian. No, I’m not a wife, yet. But this book taught me how to pray scripture over my future husband. You may not know his name yet, but God does. I prayed for us to both have wisdom and discernment as God draws us toward Himself and each other. I prayed for us to choose His best for us.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each otherso that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” -James 5:16

As a single woman, I’ll keep my secret dream wedding board. But more importantly, I now have a marriage prep board, too. It has cool stuff like how to encourage my future husband and scriptures to pray over my spouse. And of course, there are lots of biblical and romantic quotable quotes.

I want to hear from you! Single people: What things would you add to the list? Married people: What prepared you most for marriage?

Help!

Last week, we dug into scripture and thoroughly covered what submission actually is and is not. Read more about that here.

In this post, I would like to propose a different than “normal” perspective on Christian marriage. We traditionally have placed a heavy weight on the singular roles of leader husbands and submissive wives. But I think we’ve put unnecessary emphasis on the wrong thing. The more I study marriage and family as God intends, I see a different picture than what has traditionally been painted as the overbearing husband and the subservient wife.

Husbands are to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” -Ephesians 5:24. That looks more like sacrificial love and less like lording over his wife. From the very beginning, God saw that man wouldn’t be able to carry out his assignment on his own. The wife was specifically designed to come alongside and be a helpmate to her husband.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” -Genesis 2:18

The word for “helper” above is from the same word used when referencing God’s divine intervention, support, and deliverance. Pause and ponder that. Women were designed to be supernatural support to our husbands! Adam was created to be responsible for God’s creation [Gen. 2:15]. Eve was specifically designed to support him in that role.  The role of a helpmate is far more empowering than we have previously interpreted it.

Moreover, when we read about the ideal wife described in Proverbs 31, her role is far more multi-faceted than submission alone. She works diligently; she takes care of her home and family; she honors and respects her husband; she cares for the poor and the weak; she is trustworthy, wise, kind, and generous. In her role of caring for her family and supporting her husband, she improves his reputation and thrives as a wife and mother.

Men desire to be respected and honored. As women, it is our job to call out the king in our men. That is an empowering and honorable position. When I encourage and build up my man, he feels like he can take on the world! I see his demeanor physically change and he stands a little taller. It’s not difficult to see the good he does for the kingdom and our families… when I’m looking for it. But it is humbling, because it takes the focus off of me. Most importantly, it enables him to feel confident in the role God has given him in work and ministry. In turn, he shows his affection for me by sacrificing his time and resources. What a rewardingly vicious cycle!

Husbands are called to be the head of the family and spiritual leader, guide, sacrificial lover, and provider for their family. Yes, leadership is a big part of it. Also the risk, responsibility, and spiritual accountability are very important parts of their role. On judgement day, every husband will stand before God and be held responsible for the decisions he made which effected his family’s spiritual growth and direction. That’s a HUGE responsibility! I’ll take submission over that any day.

“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.” -Ephesians 5:24-28

Conversely, wives are called to be a helpmate. That includes submission to her husband’s headship, as well as encouragement, support, child-rearing, honoring, and respecting her husband and caring for the family. Disclosure: the list for wives is longer because that’s what I’ve studied more thoroughly. Just trying to stay in my lane!

The big misunderstanding of Christian wifehood is we got hung up on the hierarchy before we ever got to the rest of the design. Being a helpmate means so much more to me than just submitting to my future husband’s authority. It’s about supporting and encouraging him toward all that God is calling him to. That’s an empowering role!

Someday, when I am a wife, even with all the hardships life and marriage may pose, I look forward to encouraging my future husband toward greatness! My greatest joy is calling out the king in my man and watching him flourish as he leads and guides our family toward missional living and furthering the kingdom. There will be no greater joy than to submit to his headship. Even when my flesh wants her own way.

I’m Bossy

Around the Christian community we hear a lot about men’s and women’s roles in marriage. We talk often about husbands as leaders and women as being… (that often misunderstood and misrepresented word) submissive. 

Feminism has caused us to hear that word and interpret it as “brainlessly subservient.” We instantly think, “Great. I’ll never be allowed to have an opinion again.” That’s not at all what submission means. In fact, submission is an empowering and sanctifying heart position. The greek word used in the New Testament translated as “submit,” is hupotasso. It’s a generally military term used in regard to ranking. The husband is often called the king of the home, while the wife is the queen. This is proper order and ranking. However, the king has to answer to his subjects as well as to God. So it’s not as simple as the husband calls all the shots while the wife gets no vote. That’s misuse of his role.

“in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight [direct your ways].” -Proverbs 3:6

Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” -Hebrews 13:7

Notice in the above scriptures it’s not only wives who are called to submit. Many places in scripture call us ALL to submit to the Lord, His will, spiritual and natural authority. Our fleshly and sinful nature hates the idea of submission simply because we desire to be in control of our lives. However, God calls us to “put down” our sinful ways and “pick up” our cross by choosing His ways and giving up control to Him who cares for us.

As women, we especially like to to manage, organize, and control. It’s part of our nature. I think that’s why wives are specifically told to submit to husbands’ headship in 3 different places [Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, 1 Pet. 3:11] The reason we are so resistant to the idea is because our flesh wants to be bossy!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21

I find it interesting that the above verse is right before the dreaded Ephesians 5:23 [“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”]. Everyone zooms in on the first half of the wives’ instructions, but don’t notice that right before that, everyone was commanded to submit to each other. When read in context, women are not so specifically being singled out. Read the whole chapter, instead of taking a single verse out of context. There are some heavy responsibilities placed on men in verses 25-30.

More importantly, there is an order. As believers, we are to submit to God first in everything. That means giving up control to Him and allowing Him to shape us into Christlikeness. Secondly, as wives, we are to submit to our husbands. If a husband asks his wife to do something against God’s will, that request is not to be obeyed. Why? Because we are to submit to God first! 

How is a wife to know if her husband is contradicting God? Aside from the obvious ones like stealing, killing, and lying, how should a wife know when it’s proper to submit (obey, go along with, etc) to her husband’s leadership? The answer is simple: godly wisdom and discernment which can only come from a personal relationship with God. We all must cultivate our own relationship with Christ as believers. We should be pursuing His will in our own personal time.

So this is where the wife’s role becomes so empowering. You see, we aren’t called to be brainless “Yes Women.” We’re called to be Christ followers first and foremost. When a difference in opinion (perhaps in regard to a job change or a move) arises, both husband and wife place their wisdom and perspective on the table, perhaps they prayerfully weigh the options (together and individually). If they are still at an impass, the husband, as the head of the home, makes the final call. It is at this point that submission comes into play. It should operate like a benevolent democracy at home. Once all the votes are cast, the husband has the power of veto. And the wife shouldn’t grumble and complain if the decision doesn’t go her way.

“A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.” -Proverbs 19:13

At the core, submission is more about allowing the husband to take the lead. Not just letting, but encouraging him to be the head of the household. God created the husband to be the leader. It’s our job as wives to cultivate the leader and call out the king in our husbands.

All that does not mean there aren’t amazing women leaders, teachers, and speakers. There are many wonderful married female Christian speakers. Lisa Bevere, Beth Moore, and Christine Caine to name a few. Public speaking, authoring, and teaching scripture has little to do with being a submissive wife on its own. Submission applies in terms of family ranking. If a woman’s husband encourages her to operate in her gifting as a Christian counselor or speaker, there is no reason not to further the kingdom in that way! Unless God says no. Then of course submit to that. A godly man will recognize the spiritual gifting you have and encourage you to use it rather than squash it because he feels threatened.

So, fellow single ladies, how does all of this submission talk help us?! I’m glad you asked. First, it helps us to demystify the expectation of our future role as wives. Do not think that once you get married, you suddenly won’t be allowed to have an opinion. In fact, a godly man will value your wisdom.

Secondly, as we navigate the dating world, look for a godly man who will see your gifting and encourage you to operate in it. Find someone who appreciates your life experience and godly wisdom. Wait for a man who honors your kingdom role as a woman. Adversely, run from the one who claims that because he’s the man he gets to call all the shots and control you. That’s just abuse.

Finally, when you are intentionally dating a godly man, practice godly submission. Let him take the lead. Encourage him to step out and take risks. Call out the king in him. And when it comes to heavier decisions, respectfully offer your opinion and then let him make the final decision. Remember, that you are not married yet, so you don’t have to submit to anything. However, the courtship dynamic sets the tone for a potential future marriage. If you want your future husband to be a leader, let your current boyfriend practice leading.

Happily Ever After, Pt. 2

In the last post, I talked about what God has been teaching this single lady about marriage. Read more about that here. Today, I’ll continue with why it’s important for a single person to learn about marriage and how to apply that knowledge to our single life.

Knowing what the purpose of marriage is helps us prepare appropriately for it. It also helps us approach dating differently. If my goal in marriage is to find happiness, then I will only look for dating partners that make me “feel good” or fulfill my whims in order to make me happy. Read: take me out for expensive dinners and buy me roses. But if my desire for future marriage is to further carry out God’s plan for me and sanctification, then I will seek a partner and experiences that draw me closer to Christ. Read: serve at the local homeless shelter and worship together. See the difference?

Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, “You & Me Forever” radically changed my view on God’s purpose for marriage. I strongly encourage you to check out their material here: www.youandmeforever.org  (PSSST! They even offer a free download of the book on their app.)

The underlying motivation for marriage drastically changes the behavior in dating, partner selection process, and even the planning and preparation of self before a potential partner shows up.

A dear friend and pastor challenged me awhile back to do a practical exercise in preparation for dating. He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a quadrant on it. He labeled each box “Must Have,” “Should Have,” “Could Have,” and “Can’t Have.” He told me to go home and thoughtfully, prayerfully consider and then write down the items I would put in each box for a potential dating partner. “Must haves” are required attributes of my future husband. It’s the non-negotiable items that someone must display such as a personal relationship with Christ. “Should Haves” are desired attributes that are a bit flexible like having hazel eyes. “Could Haves” are flaws that are tolerable such as difficult family members or financial debt. “Can’t Haves” are deal breakers like lying or cheating.

I have made a similar list many times over since about the age of 13. I’m a girl. It’s what we do. However, this time as I went home and contemplated his assignment, I realized how much my desires had changed over the years. When I searched my heart and prayerfully sought God as to what should be on this list, it became obvious why this would be so different than all the other “ideal mate” lists.

Before when I had made similar lists, my objective was to make a wishlist of personality and physical traits that I find attractive. Tall, dark, handsome, charming, kind, brave, etc. I was looking at a potential mate and subsequent marriage as things to make me feel happy, safe, and loved. And while those feelings are a nice byproduct of a healthy marriage, I now realize that “feelings” alone are not the goal.

This time my list took on a completely different shape as I desire to seek God’s will for my future. Instead of looking for someone to make me happy, I find myself looking for someone to challenge and encourage me toward Christlikeness. Now my list includes things like volunteerism, generosity, tithing, spiritual maturity, boldness, etc. It’s not all super spiritual, but mostly it is because character and spiritual roots are what lasts.

If there is one thing I am learning, it is that God cares more about my character, holiness, and obedience than he does about my feelings and happiness. Because I want what God desires for me most, I don’t necessarily want safe and comfortable anymore. Instead, it looks less like financial and emotional security and more like God’s own sacrificial love and eternity focused.

I find myself looking for a husband who has a heart after God’s and can lead me closer to Him, who has a similar spiritual mission in life that I can encourage and support well. I seek a partner whose passion for furthering the kingdom ignites my own as I fuel his desire to serve the Lord. Because of my deep desire for missional living, I find that the things that are on my list are shaped toward that rather than personal security and safety. Your list may look different because your calling is different.

If you are not yet married, I encourage you to seek God’s will for you and make a list like the one I described. Study God’s beautiful design for marriage so you can begin to prepare and cultivate your heart now! If you are married, it’s all the more important to discover God’s purpose for you and your spouse.