A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the delight I have had of sharing my husband’s mission and calling for the past 33 years. I urged young women to consider carefully a man’s vision before they consent to join their life in marriage. And I encouraged wives to fully embrace their husband’s vision and put everything they are into helping him fulfill his God given calling.
And in so doing, it would seem, I opened up a discussion on the role of women in marriage. A good discussion, full of honest seeking and intelligent searching into the Word of God for answers.
Today I have asked my friend, Vicki Marshman to share with us. She is one of the smartest and kindest women I know. A woman I am honored to call my friend.
Vicki, one of the first female graduates of the Air Force Academy, combines all that academic discipline with a lifetime of loving on her husband, Steve, and her two daughters.
Settle in and learn from her Biblical research and loving wisdom— these are things we need to know.
From my heart,
*4 REASONS FOR MARRIAGE: part 4 will be back next week.
WOMEN + MARRIAGE: by vicki marshman
Recently Diane posted a fascinating discussion on marriage and mission. I thought she did a wonderful job of laying out the concept of having a mission in your marriage. As wives we are called to be under the headship of our husbands (I am going to spend quite a bit of time on that topicJ). But I wanted to weigh in on the idea of wives supporting the ‘mission’ of our husbands. When Steve and I were dating- in the dim past when bell bottoms and ‘big hair’ were the height of fashion- one of the things that drew me to him was his plans for the future. He was a man with a vision. He wasn’t floating through life waiting for something to drop into his lap. He knew what he wanted and he had a plan for getting there. He was a new Christian, but he already was seeking God’s plan for his life. In other words, he had a mission. Over the course of our dating I found that his vision for the future was compelling and one that I wanted to devote my life to also. I saw that my dreams and desires closely matched with his. THIS SHOULD BE A BIG CLUE TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE DATING!!! If what excites your man leaves you cold- you are dating the wrong man!
As we have been married, we have worked together to further define and refine Steve’s vision. We each brought different strengths and gifts to our marriage. We have helped each other to recognize our own unique gifts- or lack thereof- we have both finally accepted that neither of us can sing, Steve has a true gift for teaching and I am the only one in our family who can remember where the car keys are. But one thing has remained, Steve has desired to follow God and serve him with all of his heart. He has been the leader in our family and has worked hard to guide and care for his family. I have been able to fully use my gifts to join with and support him in that role/mission. It has sometimes been a wild ride, but who wants to stay in the slow lane the whole time? Do I feel like I have ignored my own dreams and goals to follow after Steve’s? Absolutely not! I believe that I have been able to fully explore my talents and gifts as we have worked together. Steve has always encouraged and supported me in using my gifts and abilities. Twenty-eight years later I believe that I am doing exactly what God has called me to do- helping my husband accomplish the mission God gave him and, in effect, me.
The Role of Women in Marriage:
I have been married to my husband for 28 years. Steve and I were 22 and 23 when we married, (yes, I married a ‘younger man’) and to be honest I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing when I first said “I do”. I had only been a believer for a few months and Steve was a new believer too. So neither of us really knew what the Bible had to say about marriage. My parents were not Christians and they did not have a good marriage. Their chosen method of conflict resolution was yelling followed by door slamming and then a nice long pout (both of them were very good at this). Needless to say this was not a good plan for a successful marriage.
The first 5 years of our marriage definitely had problems. I had no idea how to adjust my personal experience of marriage (which can be loosely translated as ‘What not to do!’) to what the Bible had to say about it. I struggled with what my role in the marriage was supposed to be and I often wondered how two people who seemed so very different and self-centered were ever going to have a godly marriage.
At about the 5 year point in our marriage, Steve and I were living in Germany. Steve was flying for the Air Force and we were living in an apartment in a small German town. The exciting thing about this was that we were also a part of a Bible study for young married couples. All of us had been married for less than 10 years; and most of us had very young children. It was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage. We met as a group every week and studied the Bible together and we bore each other’s burdens.
That time was foundational to my understanding of what the Bible has to say about marriage. Steve and I still have our ups and downs but I now know what God wants for us and for our marriage. It is sometimes hard to accept but always true that God does know best- not my mother, not my friends and definitely not the culture we live in. So the following is what I have learned over the years about Biblical marriage and the role of women in such a marriage.
Let’s start with a good Biblically based definition of what a marriage is:
Marriage is the publicly pledged, permanent, exclusive, covenantal union of one man and one woman.
Wow! What a mouthful! Let’s take that definition apart and see what it actually means.
Publicly pledged: We make our marriage vows to each other in front of witnesses. These witnesses are there to hear our vows to each other and to encourage and support us as we fulfill those vows. We are NOT saying Yes, to the dress! We are saying yes to a lifelong commitment to a man we love and respect and are willing to be united with for life.
Permanent: Marriage is forever- ‘until death do you part’. This is probably one of the least accepted concepts in our culture today. Nothing seems permanent in our society. Everything is disposable, recyclable or replaceable. Our culture tells us that if our marriage isn’t satisfying or enjoyable or fulfilling or frankly just too much work- we should just reboot our lives and start over. But the Bible couldn’t disagree more with this view. Look at the following verses:
Matt 5:32 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Matt 19:3-9 (this passage is very similar to Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18)
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
So what do we take away from these passages? We are in it for the long haul ladies! Marriage does not have a 30 day return policy. If more people accepted that fact going into it, I believe that there would be a lot fewer divorces.
Exclusive: total, complete monogamous faithfulness to your partner. This should be one of those “Well, DUH!” moments; but again our culture works against us. Let’s cut right to the chase and see what Paul has to say about this.
1 Corinthians 6:15-17: 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Sex is more than just a physical activity. It unites us with our partner at a deep level. Notice Paul’s use of the Genesis 2 language- sex within the bounds of marriage is one of God’s gifts to us and should not be taken lightly. Look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.
2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Both husbands and wives are obligated to see to their partner’s needs. Now I have to be honest here and say that I haven’t heard of too many husbands with a problem in this area. In fact, men have a physical need for sexual release. Studies have been done showing most men need this release approximately every 3 days. As wives we need to aware of and responsive to this need in our men.
Covenantal: We make promises- serious promises, like a binding legal contract before God and before witnesses. We all know what a contract is. We all know there are often real and serious consequences to breaking a contract- can anyone say “cell phone contract prepayment penalty’? Why would we think that the consequences of breaking a contract made before God wouldn’t have damaging repercussions?
Union: an intense, intimate, joining of one man and one woman. The Bible describes it as ‘becoming one flesh’ in Gen 2. There is a soul-tie between a husband and wife. This tie is life-long and unbreakable. We may be able to rip it apart but there is truly great pain in doing so.
Well that was fun! Here we are in this lifelong committed relationship and some of us don’t even know what the ground rules are. Fortunately God doesn’t leave us hanging. A couple of passages discuss the role of wives in a godly marriage. Most notably Ephesians 5:22-25 and the passage we will be focusing on -1 Peter 3:1-6.
1Pe 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
1Pe 3:2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1Pe 3:3 Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear--
1Pe 3:4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
1Pe 3:5 for this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,
1Pe 3:6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
These six verses cover a lot, but I want to concentrate on 3 key principles that every wife should follow:
The first principle is submission.
Yes, we are going to talk about the ‘elephant in the living room’.
Verse one says ‘be subject to your own husbands’; Submission- this is a controversial topic in our society so let’s take a closer look at what is meant by submission.
Before we begin, let’s establish some ground rules-
- This issue is specifically intended to address the relationship between a Christian man and woman. There can be real problems if you try to apply these guidelines outside of Christian marriage. If you are dealing with a marriage between two non-believers or between a believer and a non-believer some of these principles may simply not apply.
- These guidelines are only intended to govern the marital relationship. Women are not submissive to any man, even in the context of the church. Now in all honesty, we are to be in submission to our elders and pastors, but so are all the men! Hebrews 13:17 states that
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
3. Women are not required to do anything immoral or that violates any other part of God’s Word. (Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men”). Again remember the Bible is approaching this issue from the viewpoint of two believers.
So, what does submission mean?
The best example – as it always is- is Jesus. Let’s look at Mark 14:32-36. In these verses we find Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He will soon be arrested, tried and hung on the Cross. His hour is at hand and He is very naturally feeling great anxiety and fear over the ordeal ahead of Him.
Mar 14:32 and they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."
Mar 14:33 and he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.
Mar 14:34 and he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch."
Mar 14:35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
Mar 14:36 and he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
What is happening in these verses? Jesus is showing us what submission looks like as He submits to the Father.
Jesus gives His emotions- “My soul is very sorrowful”
Jesus gives His desires- “Remove this cup from me”
Jesus gives His trust- “Yet not what I will, but what you will”
In return the Father hears and cares, He understands and He is faithful and protective.
This is the model for submission that we should see in our marriages. We share our thoughts/emotions/opinions with our husbands. Our husbands, the godly men who love us sacrificially listen to us and care for us and are faithful and protective of us. In this model we have the security and freedom to participate in all decisions and to trust our husbands to do what is best for us in those times when we don’t agree.
Does this always happen? Well, I don’t know about your halo, but mine has quite a few dings in it where it has slipped off of my head. I don’t always ‘submit’. I get scared and lose faith or sometimes I just get selfish and manipulative. Steve has a few flaws tooJ.
Our husbands don’t want a partner who expects them to make all the decisions in a relationship. They want an equal, active partner who helps them discuss the issues they are facing as a couple/family and come to a decision that both agree on. However, when a decision needs to be made and there is no agreement it is the husband’s role to make the decision and the wife’s role to support that decision. Give this to your husband- be the contributing partner in the marriage, not the “I knew this wasn’t going to work out” after the fact partner.
Most husbands need and value their wives’ input and instincts- my ‘woman’s intuition’ as Steve calls it. Over the years of our marriage I can think of only a couple of times when Steve and I could not come to an agreement on an issue. We have worked as a team. Steve actively seeks my opinion and input. I believe that I play a valued and integral role in all of our decisions. I have to give great credit to my husband here. He is an excellent example of a godly husband who truly loves me sacrificially and wants to be the leader God has called him to be. This was a difficult thing for me to learn. I definitely never saw it modeled in my parent’s marriage. I had to learn to trust and sometimes I just had to be obedient to the Word of God. But the rewards have been amazing. I have a husband who loves me and who I trust implicitly.
The second principle deals with our behavior as wives.
Wives are to have ‘respectful and pure conduct (from vs 2).
The dictionary definition of respect: 1) to take notice of; to regard with special attention; to regard as worthy of special consideration; hence to care for; to heed. 2) To consider worthy of esteem; to regard with honor
Respect- ladies our husbands have a huge need to feel competent. They particularly need to be told they are respected by the significant women in their lives. And wives are one of the most significant women in any man’s life. They need to hear us say “Well done”, “Great job”.
We have the ability to discourage our husbands with disrespect or to encourage and honor them with our respect. Which does the Bible command of us?
In addition we are to act in a pure manner, another word for pure is chaste. This does not mean that we are repressed or frigid. We are to be passionate, but only for God and our husbands.
The final principle deals with our outward appearance and our inward attitude.
Verse 3 says that we are not to have external adornment. A better translation would be not MERELY external adornment. There is nothing wrong with dressing well and grooming our hair so that we look our best. Most husbands enjoy having their wives look attractive. But our best should always be decent and modest.
Our adornment should also be more than ‘skin-deep’. It should focus on the hidden person of the heart; that gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God.
This gentle and quiet spirit needs further definition. We are not to be doormats. How can we be a suitable helper for our husbands if we never offer them the benefit of our experience and intuition? Our husbands need our input and our support. But sometimes ladies our gentle and quiet spirit needs to do a little more listening and a little less talking. Admittedly a hard thing for most of us!
Keep in mind that sharing our opinion should not become nagging. Nagging is a sign of distrust. When we nag we are telling our husbands- I do not trust you to do this right, or I do not trust you to do it at all. We need to have faith in our husbands that they will do what is in the best interest of our families. We need to help them step into the headship role God has called them to.
Be respectful and chaste
Be decent and modest; with a gentle and quiet spirit.
God gave us these principles because He wants us to experience all of the joy that a good marriage can bring to us. Marriage is not always easy. In fact, at times it is very hard. Two people who often come from very different backgrounds and who have very different needs often have to work very hard to be a ‘giving partner’ to their spouse, a partner who puts the best interest of their spouse ahead of their own needs.
But this is what God calls us to do. As wives we are called to submit to our husbands. We are called to be respectful and pure in conduct and we are called to have that quiet and gentle spirit that is precious to God.
Can we do this? Yes, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can be the kind of wife described in Proverbs 31.
Pro 31:10 an excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Pro 31:11 the heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
Pro 31:12 she does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.