The. Gracious. Wife.
Those words alone may provoke the idea that I’m about to toss June Cleaver’s apron over your neck and begin tying a tight bow around your waist with new expectations to add to your list of being the perfect wife until you gasp for air. Except that I’m not that gal and this is not that article.
As cute as June’s vintage shoes were, I wouldn’t want to wear them. I’ve found the word ‘perfect’ to be like a girdle that suffocates under a pretty dress and a fixed smile. It never quite fits, but man it looks good from the outside. Perfect is a façade; as women and wives it wants to allure us to choose a pretty lie over a gorgeous dress free of confining inseams. That dress is grace and this article is about learning to wear it in our marriages.
Funny little thing, though, about grace (God’s unmerited favor toward us) is that we can only give grace to others to the extent we have received grace ourselves.
If there’s any invisible lists hanging around that we as wives keep ourselves to, lists that determine how we think or feel we are doing as a wife then there is usually a list of invisible expectations we keep our husbands to, too. Come on, you know what I am talking about. The ultimate Spiritual He-Man meets Honey-Do list–also known as your version of the perfect husband list.
I’m going to ask you to crumble that list into a ball (get violent with it, let me hear the paper crunching) and throw it in the trash. How about crumpling up the list you keep for yourself, too?
With all our lists in the trash, I think we might just be ready to begin.
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish yourself to be.” ~ Thomas A’ Kempis
I know right?! Made me cringe the first time I read that quote, too. Conviction, guilt, shame, repentance–all provoked in me by those 25 words by the late Tomas Kempis, because they were right. I could not make myself as I wished myself to be. I’m relating this to marriage, but it relates to so much more.
I can remember like yesterday; my husband and I were young and in love, we had Jesus by our side and we were going to be the exception to every rule. We were going to be great at the “better” and even greater at the “worse” as we recited our vows. Our love was different. It would conquer the world as we knew it!!!!
Every married person has a smirk on their face right about now, because they know what’s coming. The day you realize that no matter how amazing your spouse is, they have bad breath in the morning. They don’t always say the right thing, or react the right way, and as much as we know we have our own faults … we can see theirs better. And sometimes, just sometimes, dwelling on their faults makes it a little easier not to look at what’s happening in our own hearts.
I know I have faults because my spouse over the years has been a perfect mirror, in which I’ve seen reflections of my own selfishness, pride, and insecurity surface in the face of really minor things that don’t really matter and then some that do (aww man, but mostly in those darn little things).
I can say with pure conviction, no marriage is perfect.
Seriously, cute old couple in their 80s sitting on their porch sipping coffee and reminiscing over 50 years of marriage. Yup, still … not one! That cute old couple (that I’d like to be someday) is inspiring–yes, perfect-no.
It’s true. Marriage isn’t perfect. BUT, it can be beautiful!
Whether the problems you face in marriage are the ‘he’ consistently forgets to take the trash out variety or of the more hurtful wounds type, I believe I know a word capable of taking them all on.
It’s a fatty of a word, it’s as gentle is it is strong. It was bought. Now it’s free.
Sounds nice. Good, even. Jesus died for us to have it. Who wouldn’t want it, right? We receive grace when we come to Jesus and we ask Him to become our Savior. We LOVE that He took our place, paid our penalty for sin and now has the power to wash all our sins away. And He does. Salvation is beautiful; it marks our life and changes its direction forever.
However, grace is not just what we received in that moment, it is the continual place in which we should live our lives daily drawing from it’s endless supply because Jesus died for us to have it, not just on that day, but everyday! The receiving of grace comes through revelation by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to guide us into all truth, and teach us through His voice and His word the depths of what Jesus did for us. In Hebrews 10:29, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Grace, because when we get in His presence the chains of religion and ‘doings’ fall off of us and new revelations of grace begin to shape our lives. These interactions with the Holy Spirit can’t help but revolutionize our relationships, including our marriages.
As much as we are grateful for our salvation and the Holy Spirit, sometimes we get stuck in ruts of trying and striving (all with good intentions, of course) to please God by what we do. We want a checklist for all the outward things we can do to be a good, Christian spouse because it gives us the comfy feeling that we are good with God. The truth is we are good with God on our worst day as much as we are on our best day, all the boxes checked or none of them. That’s the romance of the cross: it will never be what you can do, it will always be what He did. Everything we do or give should just be a big fat kiss on the face of the God we love, because we live overwhelmed by His unfathomable grace that we cannot earn.
Setting that foundation, here is some helpful wisdom that the Holy Spirit has given me on my journey from a pharisaical wife into one who is a little more gracious and still working on it.
Get you some grace, Girl, and then share it with your man!
We can start by testing our grace-meter (your heart), remembering we can’t give grace we don’t have. Grace has a way of flooding in as we open up our hearts to the truth and when we hit lies we’ve believed straight on. Here are a few questions to test your grace-meter. All the following questions are submitted to one main umbrella question: “Am I doing for or receiving from Jesus in this? Is grace happening?”
- Do I feel like God loves me and I walk in unmerited favor when I don’t have a ‘quiet time’ the way others do or the way I think it should be? Why do I think it should be a certain way?
The truth is the Holy Spirit just wants to hang out with you, not the planned super-spiritual you … just the real you. Ask Him what that looks like for both of you (you and God), and let your life with God be life-giving to you. In return, release your husband from any ideas of what his spiritual life should look like and just encourage him to relate to God the way he feels most comfortable, being real–even if it’s different than the way you do. Lack of spiritual comparison or judgment makes room for trust and vulnerability in a marriage where mutual grace is experienced.
When I released my husband from all my preconceived ideas of what his spiritual life should look like, he began to share with me the way God spoke to him and led him which produced in our marriage a spiritual honesty that was real, and I loved it. It was actually what my heart desired all along. We all want the grace to be who we really are and who we were uniquely created to be.
- Do I feel Jesus likes to answer other people’s prayers but not mine because they are closer to him than I am, they pray better, they are better Christians? Do I feel that if I could get closer to God, He might begin to meet my needs or answer my prayers? When did I start feeling this way?
If we can earn grace by being good enough then it isn’t free or unmerited. As much as it seems so foreign to our human nature, we cannot earn God’s love or favor. He just loves us like crazy just the way we are in this moment; He’s not falling apart over that character flaw we just can’t seem to get over in ourselves.
When we serve God like our relationship with Him is based on a set of rules, for example. We feel like He loves us when we follow them and we are in trouble when we don’t, we walk in constant judgment of ourselves and it runs off onto others. This kind of judgment, subtle as it can be, starts coming out in our speech and actions, usually toward the people closest to us (like our spouses).
What the cross bought for us was a friendship with God free of judgment and full of a grace that woos us to want to be changed into the likeness of Jesus. Have you ever had that friend that is so kind and encouraging they just make you want to be and do kind and encouraging things back to them whether or not you would have done those things before? Graciousness is contagious like that. When we aren’t earning God’s love, we are more apt not to make others (like our husbands) earn our love either.
- What does my self-talk sound like? Am I kind and encouraging to myself, or do I put myself down for not losing those 10 pounds I’ve been trying to lose? Do I tell myself, “you can try again,” when I fail at something, or do I respond with putting myself down? Ask the Holy Spirit how He would want you to talk to yourself.
The truth is, the way you talk to yourself matters. Words matter. The universe is set in place and in motion by the words God spoke when He first created it. Words create and add too, and words wound and take away. Encouragement breeds hope. Discouragement breeds hopelessness. When our speech is gracious to ourselves it lends graciousness to others, which means when we watch how we talk to ourselves we will notice it becomes easier to watch how we speak to our spouses. (Ephesians 4:29)
What we say to our husbands matters. God has given us influence with our mate. Proverbs 14:11 says, “EVERY WISE woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” Sometimes we use our words.
You’re going to get mad sometimes. Get alone and tell Him exactly how you feel–He can handle it. But sometimes hurt feelings are just hurt feelings until perspective comes, and it’s a good idea to refrain from unleashing ALL of them on your hubby.
There was this time when I was frustrated with my husband because sometimes he speaks Japanese (man talk) so well that it doesn’t compute with my Portuguese (woman talk) and we experienced miscommunication (imagine that). I was having a moment, and I’ll be honest it was so intense I couldn’t think of anything nice to say, so I was trying not to say anything at all. I felt like God put on my heart to write a list of 10 nice things about my husband instead of dwelling on why I was frustrated.
It was hard because my heart wanted to hold on to judgment but God was prodding it towards grace. He almost always wants to do that if we let him. I wrote my list. I put it in a text and pressed “send.” I assumed he might say “thanks” or something. What happened next blessed me to tears: my husband sent me a list of 10 things he loved about me back and the Holy Spirit, grabbing the moment, whispered to my heart, “Grace breeds grace and gives you eyes to see the person, not the offense.” I almost missed a chance to see my husband and how he saw me. (The green text is from me to my husband Yuri, the white one is his response.)
Marriages aren’t perfect, but they can be beautiful when we choose grace over judgment. Your words matter; they are containers–fill them with grace. If you mess up and you will, be quick to say you were wrong, receive your own grace then get up and move on.
I haven’t earned the gracious wife badge; I don’t think any of us wives ever get too. Our marriages are living, ever-changing exchanges between two imperfect people that need to daily draw from grace. I love that salvation came to my heart when I met Jesus, but I also love that His grace and Holy Spirit save me daily. I’ve traded in my girdle for a sundress, a dress I’m determined to rock for my husband too. I’m gonna get me some grace and share it with my man! I’m convinced the dress looks pretty hot on you too!
Rock that dress. What do you say, are you with me?!