After my December article (titled HWJL, or How would Jesus Love) on men's biblical responsibilities in marriage, I asked my readers for a female response. This month's article is that response, by Sharon
At last year's Oscar's, while accepting the award for best picture, Ben Affleck thanked his wife for their marriage. He told her, "It is work, but it's the best kind of work, and there's no one I'd rather work with." It was refreshing to hear something so honest, instead of the romanticized notion that if two people are truly meant for each other that their marriage will be perfect, easy, free of conflict. However, this beautiful and truthful statement received so much criticism that Affleck felt the need to publicly explain and apologize for his words.
What message is society sending us about marriage? Plenty of forwards on social media sites promote the idea that a man owes a woman something for being his wife. He could never possibly repay her for changing her name, bearing his children, and sacrificing so much for him. Therefore, we are told that a husband needs to shower his wife with flowers and gifts, constantly compliment her, and as one forward put it, "live just for her." A woman can be "selfish", "impatient", "insecure", and "out of control" because "If you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best." Of course, these are extreme examples, but based on the number of "likes" and re-posts these messages get and the criticism that real, honest statements receive , we're all buying into it.
Commercials aren't much better. Rather than telling her loved ones that she is engaged, a woman holds up her left hand and tells them what jewelry store her new fiance went to. We see the wife who tells her husband not to get her anything for Valentine's Day, and then is furious when he does as he's told. We see the exasperated wife whose husband who is more like an extra child to discipline and take care of than an equal partner. Are these one sided, materialistic marriages what we want? Better yet, are these the types of relationships we want for our children?
When God created Eve, it was because He saw that Adam needed companionship. He didn't make her to take care of him, or to be taken care of by him, but rather to be a suitable partner for him. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 tells us "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." Marriage should a symbiotic relationship. Both spouses should need each other, help each other, and make each other's lives better. If this isn't the case, or if one partner does all the work while the other reaps all the benefits, something is very wrong. There are naturally going to be times when one spouse carries a little more weight than the other, maybe because of health, work, or other issues, but overall, the relationship should be about both partners striving to make their marriage work.
It is an awesome time to be a woman. Although the world still has a long way to go, women now have opportunities that were unimaginable 100 years ago. We can have careers, positions of power, and respect. We can own property and earn our own money. We can choose who we marry, keep our last names if we want, and leave an abusive or unfaithful spouse. We are a man's equal instead of his property. We should never take these advantages for granted because they were denied to women not that long ago. But being a modern, independent woman doesn't have to mean letting go of being a godly wife.
Look at the 31 woman. This unnamed, yet well known figure from Proverbs 31: 10-31 can be pretty intimidating because she is so seemingly perfect. However, the parts of her that are most worth emulating aren't the waking up when it's still dark or sewing her own garments and linens. Rather, it is the balance she finds in her work, charity, and marriage. Although her marriage and family are her priority, they are not her sole reason for living. She is strong, smart, independent, and confident. She has earned her husband's trust and admiration, and she is good to him. She takes care of her family and those in need, but she takes care of herself too. The 31 woman is no shrinking violet, but she's not a domineering matriarch either. She defies all the stereotypes society imposes on women. She simply does what is best for her family and what honors God.
During the course of a typical day, women are bombarded with hundreds of unrealistic images and stereotypes telling us how we should look, what we should want, and who we should be. It's easy to buy into it and think that what we're doing isn't enough. We need to disconnect from what the world is telling us, and ask ourselves questions. Am I doing what is best for my marriage? Am I doing what God wants?
Am I truly an equal partner for my husband, or is one of us carrying a heavier load? These aren't one time questions. We should continue to ask ourselves them throughout the course of our lives because being a good woman and a good wife is not a destination, it's a journey. It is work, but it's the best kind of work.