*Originally published by The Gospel Coalition Canada.
If there was a romantic comedy about my life leading up to marriage it would be called “Christmas by Candlelight.” It would begin when I see a handsome stranger, and we lock eyes across the room of an Old Testament seminary class. It feels like love at first sight, and a friendship develops. But confusion ensues over six months until he finally makes his intentions known.This is followed by him cooking me an incredible meal as we clear up all of the miscommunication and laugh into the evening! We then fall in love surrounded by Christmas lights, and he later proposes in the budding spring gardens of a castle courtyard. The montage of our exquisite December wedding is set to the music of the live Motown band from our candlelit reception.
The final scenes of our wedding day set up the sequel of our “picture perfect” future: we would launch both of our successful careers, buy our forever family home, fill it with beautiful, compliant children, and make memories travelling the world together.
Just as it is rare to find a sequel as good as the original, the scenes after our wedding day have yet to play out in the “picture perfect” way I had imagined.
Neither one of us found ourselves on our original career paths—my husband became a pastor and I became a stay-at-home mom. We found that life in a double-income world is expensive, and that circumstances have required us to move homes more than once. We found that infertility can be devastating, adoption is complicated, and parenting requires complete dependence on God. We found that memories are made through both joy and suffering, and that the expenses of life leave little room for Mediterranean cruises.
“Marriage is Hard.” Not exactly a catchy title for the next Hollywood blockbuster. Nevertheless, God has taught me many lessons on being a Christian wife. Here are 4 things I have learned in 10 years of marriage.
My Identity Is in Christ
Early in marriage, it was unsettling to experience the feeling of “losing myself” as I navigated how to be a wife. I had similar struggles when I became a pastor’s wife, a barren woman, and an adoptive mother.
As a wife, my primary identity is to be an image bearer of God and to bring him glory through all of the roles and responsibilities He entrusts to me (Gen. 1:27). Second, my identity is to be in loving relationship with my husband and to be his helper (Gen. 2:18). A third aspect of my identity is to love my children and to care for our home (Titus 2:3-5).
No matter how life circumstances change, my true identity is to reflect the enduring glory of Christ through the roles He has called me to.
Submission Is a High Calling
As a newlywed, I had very little understanding of the purpose of marriage, let alone a biblical understanding of submission. Scripture teaches that marriage is intended to reflect the profound mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:32). Just as the church is to submit to Christ, I am to submit to my husband (Eph 5:24).
The Bible explains that marriage is to intentionally demonstrate both the self-sacrificial loving headship of Christ and the self-giving respectful conduct of the church. The church is not to follow Scripture begrudgingly, but with all her heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:27). Likewise, I am to serve my husband enthusiastically, passionately, and intelligently.
Regardless of whether my husband consistently exhibits the perfect headship of Jesus, I am still called to display the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). To be clear, since our primary act of submission is to the Lord, we are exempt from following our husbands into sin or subjecting ourselves to abuse.
There Is Grace in the Gospel
Some of my most difficult days in marriage have direct correlation to me thinking more highly of myself than I ought. The sin nature of fallen humanity makes every relationship a challenge, since our default demeanor is one of selfishness and pride.
Specifically, two consequences of the Fall are unique to women: difficulty in mothering, and a desire to control our husbands (Gen. 3:16). It did not take long in marriage to realize that building and raising a family is not easy, and that I have an inherent inclination to control.
Submission is far more than a biblical principle to affirm in theory. It is the daily application of it that really matters. This is impossible to do apart from the Gospel. Jesus humbled himself and became a servant to fulfill the will of God in His death and resurrection. He is my example, but I require His strength to follow in His footsteps.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, I must continually develop self-awareness of my shortcomings and temptations, so I can daily claim the truth that Jesus has crucified the desires of my flesh (Gal. 5:24-25). Christ is the ultimate example of submission and I am so thankful for His grace when I fall short.
Godly Older Women Are a Treasure
I continue to glean invaluable wisdom from godly older women. In Titus 2, the elders are to oversee older women in the training of younger women according to sound doctrine. There are seven key areas: To love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be working at home and kind, and to be submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2:4-5).
I am always looking for qualified older women to learn from. These women are clothed in humility, are continually growing in holiness, and demonstrate a biblical understanding of each of these seven areas.
I seek their wisdom. I ask questions. I have learned to listen.
Here are some of best pieces of marriage wisdom I have tried to implement: Pray daily as a couple. Enjoy the Bible together. Respect your husband in word and action, especially when he is present. Never stop dating. Keep children and pets out of your bed!
Finally, I recognize that I am an “older woman in training,” responsible to teach the next generation to be image-bearers, wives, and mothers who adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.
Living out the sequel to our wedding day has been nothing like a predictable romantic comedy, though there has been much romance and comedy. As we have sought to center our marriage on Christ, we have enjoyed far more action, adventure, drama, and suspense than I ever could have expected. This sequel has it all. My prayer is that we will be faithful to fulfil the roles God has called us to for the glory of Christ for many decades to come.