Fast forward to my youngest son - my third - being 21 months old. I am no longer an expert. Parenting is one of the most confusing experiences I have ever had. Consequently, I have sought outside wisdom and like a true member of my generation, I have sought wisdom from books and blogs. Often, after reading all those books and blogs, I find myself more confused than ever.
Recently, I mentioned my frustration to an older-than-me woman with whom I'll be meeting for some good old Titus 2 time. Guess what her advice was? Stop reading the books. And start praying for God to work through you to parent your children.
Sigh of relief.
Don't we do this for all of life? Don't we all wish for one single answer or one single formula for how to figure out life? If we could just find the formula and apply that formula to all marriages, wouldn't they all just be fixed and romantic and blissfully satisfying?
We could go to the standard marital instruction passages in Ephesians about how husbands and wives should treat each other. In fact, we often do go there and then create an artificial list of rules for what love and respect looks like for every couple. But can I tell you something?
There is no exact formula for how to show love and respect that will apply to every single couple. Love and respect may look different in their application depending upon the couple.
Does that sound like I'm giving license for husbands and wives to just do whatever they want with no thought for what Scripture says? I'm not. Really. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Typically, the traditional "rules" say that the husband takes charge of all finances. The husband and wife together make every single decision on large purchases. The wife always consults her husband before making significant purchases. There isn't a single thing wrong with any of that and many marriages work well this way. But not all of that works just that way in my marriage. Although my husband decided to take charge of the finances and bills several years ago because he realized he wasn't aware enough of what our financial state was, he completely trusts me to make all purchasing decisions alone. In fact, even if there's a large purchase that I think needs to be made, he wants me to make that decision. Case in point: homeschool curriculum. I was a certified public school teacher, and I did all the research on curriculum. I could have followed a formula and presented all my research to him and asked him to make the decision about which option sounded good to him. Sounds perfectly submissive, right? Sounds like I'm following his leadership, right? Wrong. Although many people would say that it is disrespectful for a wife to make a decision without consulting her husband, for us, it would actually be disrespect for me to insist on consulting my husband.
Does that make sense?
God told wives to respect their husbands in everything. He told us to submit in everything. But He did not tell us exactly what that would look like in our individual marriages. Here's what Aimee Byrd says in her recent (excellent) book Housewife Theologian:
What does a submissive wife do, or not do?...Well, one thing is for sure, we are not all going to be cookie cutout replicas of one another. God has created us in diversity, which is part of our beauty. We are gifted differently. We have different personalities. Some of us are leaders and some of us are followers. Some of us are introverted and some of us are extroverted. We are going to need to understand that submission and leadership roles are not going to look exactly the same in every marriage relationship - but the fruit is recognizable (p.30).Warrior Wives, here's what this means we need to do to be a good wife:
Be a student of the Word.
We need to remember that before all those books and blogs were written, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. We need to look to Scripture to learn about our God, to fall in love with Jesus and to find out how we are to put that love in action. The answers in Scripture may not speak directly to marriage, but they are applicable to life and marriage is part of life.
Be a student of your own husband.
Study your husband. Don't wish he was like your friend's husband; God gave you this husband. What are his expectations? What does he prefer? What does he like? How does he receive love and respect? How can the two of you work out creating a home and a family that reflects God's calling on your life, not on anyone else's? No one but the two of you can figure out these things. Some characteristics of your marriage may not fit the cookie cutter mold and that's ok as long as you both are seeking God's will in your life.
As a marriage blogger who wants to actually have readers, this might sound counterproductive to my own "success", but the truth is that you might need to stop reading marriage blogs. You might need to stop reading marriage books. You might need to stop consulting all your friends to find out what they think is the "best" way to be married. All those sources have some great advice, but before we start diving into books, blogs and buddies for counsel, we should start with Scripture and with prayer. You cannot go wrong with those.
What about you? Have you found ways in which your marriage doesn't fit the "rules" for a happy marriage?