A few weeks back, the ladies and I at church commenced a Bible study on marriage, particularly our roles and responsibilities as wives in this gift from God we call marriage.
Our first session focused on the end of Genesis 2, God's creation and ordaining of marriage within the context of man's existence as a social, relational being who needs other people. Put simply, God created man for His glory and to serve his fellow men. Since marriage was established within that context, the husband's role is to glorify God, serve his wife (he no longer belongs to himself... or his parents), protect and provide for her, and lead the new family they have begun together; the wife's role is to glorify God, serve her husband (she no longer belongs to herself... or her parents), follow her husband's lead and seek to fulfill and accomplish his vision for the new family they have begun.
The very next passage is Scripture discusses the fall of man, and although it does not deal directly with the marriage relationship, it gives an example of what happens within marriage when both partners do not stay within their God-given roles and boundaries.
Stop and think about what happened. The serpent came to Eve and his temptation was initally one of choosing contentment or discontentment. He tempted Eve to take her eyes off of all God had given and to look upon the single thing God had forbidden. God's lavish abundance in the garden was undescribable and unimaginable to anyone who did not actually see it. Eve responded to the tempter immediately, restating what God said - but then she added a further restriction. Wouldn't that indicate her focus had changed? It was now directed towards the single cannot rather than all of the cans.
When she looked at the fruit, she decided that it was good, it looked good and it would make her even better than God's original handiwork. She was distracted by the "varmint" that dashed across her field of vision and lost sight of the fact that she was already complete, exactly who God had made her to be, sculpted by His very hands, "...very good" was His word. No longer content, in that moment, she coveted, then touched and finally partook of what God did not intend for her. She set self on the throne and rejected God's sovereignty over her life. She failed in her responsiblity to glorify God. Then she handed the fruit to her husband, encouraging... even leading... him to consider disobedience to God's clear command as a plausible choice.
Every wife is given:
- an amazing gift - following her husband's lead while seeking to fulfill and accomplish his vision for the new family they have begun;
- an unbelievable opportunity - serving her husband, as she remembers she no longer belongs to herself; and most importantly
- a consuming responsibility and privilege - glorifying God.
If Satan can tempt wives to discontent, if he tricks them into refocusing their eyes away from this lavish abundance He's bestowed... this gift of marriage... the ground is prepared, seeds of discontent are sown - and they quickly begin to sprout and flourish. The defense for such subtle temptations is combat using God's very words and His truth - but with care and attention to neither add nor take away from what God has clearly said. The focus must remain: His overwhelming provision, His unchallengeable truth. Anything outside of God and His Word which flatters and promises to make a wife more complete, better fulfilled and/or able to enjoy increased prestige? It can be nothing more than empty promises masquerating as truth and hiding grave consequences.
One other important detail from this passage cannot be ignored: Wives can and do encourage their husbands. God gives them that influence. A wife striving to fulfill her biblically given role will encourage her husband to good works, to serving God, to becoming the man God intends for him to be, etc. But a wife can, like Eve, encourage her husband to sin. Instead of following the Lord, she can ask her husband to traipse after her towards, or even plunging headfirst into, sin.
Are there specific strategies to avoid Eve's wifely failure? I believe there are:
Every wife must expect her husband to lead and must give him room and freedom to direct, escort, pilot and guide, instead of trying to handle tricky, unknown situations independently.
- Ask first. If there is any doubt, any twinge of conscience that some idea whispering from within or without might be a questionning ultimately directing toward that path of discontent, wives must be accountable to their husbands. Those men God has given are often very wise in this area and can see very clearly when something threatens their leadership. It is easy to blame Adam and ask, "Well, why didn't he stop his wife." Wives would be wise to ask "Why didn't Eve seek Adam's input?"
- After asking, a wife must follow his leadership... If she takes off in a different directionm someone or something else has then become her leader.
- A faithful wife reminds herself continually, thankfully, for God's provision of a husband and through her husband. She must review often the probably innumerable ways her man cares for her and their family: the car tanks filled, the little house repairs, a regular salary, chauffering to dentist and doctor appointments, the help with the kids and the housework, the hugs of encouragement, the smiles shared across a room, letting her sleep in some morning just because he can, etc., etc., etc.
- Wives must deliberately choose thanksgiving, proclaiming her thanks clearly, specifically and often to him so he perceives her wifely gratitude for all of those many provisions. Critiquing and attacking perceived failures and shortcomings seems to come more easily, so wives must plan and seek to hearten their husbands.
- Wives must be intentional, using their God-given influence as wives to encourage husbands to lead while they follow God ever more closely - rather than pulling, teasing, or coercing them to relinquish leadership or to follow someone... anyone (wife included)... else.
- Wives must remember that as leaders, husbands will be held accountable for the sins of those under his leadership.
I can't wait for the New Year - and the opportunity to continue this study of marriage with the ladies of our church.