Each wife’s story and each marriage is unique. I write primarily for wives who tend to be dominating, controlling, “overly-helpful,” perfectionistic and disrespectful in their marriages. Most of us don’t realize that we are doing these things and aren’t purposely doing them. Many of us start out thinking we HAVE to act the way we do because our husbands “won’t” or “can’t” lead. That’s what I used to think!
I have walked beside hundreds of women on this journey now, and, of course, I have been walking it myself for almost 5 years now. It took me over 2 years before I BEGAN to feel like I had any clue what I was doing with respect and biblical submission. It felt VERY awkward and foreign at first. And I scrambled trying to learn from many different books but I felt like I was having to reinvent the wheel by myself, trying to learn what godly femininity was, what godly marriage was and what it meant to respect my husband and to honor his leadership. It took 2 years and 10 months for all of my husband’s walls to come down.
- My prayer is that God might allow me to put the dots closer together for those coming behind me than they were for me.
There are still some things I have been praying for in my marriage that haven’t happened yet. That’s ok. I desire to keep my eyes on Christ. I want to obey and please Him and I want to bless my husband. I trust God to work in my husband’s heart and to lead me through my husband.
Let me see if I can describe some stages from my perspective that may be helpful for the wives who are in the trenches early in this journey from being a controlling, disrespectful wife to a godly wife with a peaceful, gentle spirit who respects and honors her husband and does what is right and does not give way to fear.
This is where God opens our eyes to the magnitude of our sin. We may not immediately see absolutely all of it, but we can see enough that we are mortified, shocked, horrified and terrified to see that we are actually wretched sinners.
For me, this happened when I read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in December of 2008. For the first time, I realized that Greg needed respect the way that I needed love and our whole 14.5 years of marriage passed before my eyes and I realized that if “respect” was the measure of my being a “good wife” – I had fallen far short. I didn’t have an A+ on my Christian wife report card like I always thought I had. It was more like a D-.
I finally came face to face with my sin:
- idolatry of self
- idolatry of wanting to be in control
- PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE – thinking I was always right and I knew best
- rebellion against God’s Word and against God
- disrespect towards Greg
- disrespect towards God
- unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness
- usurping my husband’s God-given position as leader in the marriage
- living like I was sovereign instead of God
For many of you – conviction came as you read my blog.
This is the stage when we mourn over our sin, acknowledge how very sinful we are and how much we have offended God’s holiness and we turn away from the sin and to Christ.
I am truly a wretched sinner. I owe you BILLIONS of “sin dollars” that I could never possibly repay. I have fallen very short of your standard of holiness. I cannot begin to make things right with You on my own. I cannot earn my way to heaven. I cannot impress You with “good works.” My “good works” are like You described them to be in Isaiah 64 – “filthy, dirty, bloody menstrual rags.” I need the blood of Christ to cover my sin. I turn from all my sin and turn in total faith to You, Jesus! I accept your death on the cross for my sin – that in God’s sight – You took on Yourself all of my sin and all of God’s wrath and punishment against my sin. You have paid my debt in full. You have given me Your “bank account” so that when God looks at me, I owe Him nothing. He just sees You, Jesus. I receive you GLADLY as my Savior and also as my LORD. I want You to be in charge now, not me. I owe you EVERYTHING! Now, I want to obey You in everything You ask me to do out of gratitude for all You have done for me. There is nothing You could ask me to do that I would not be willing to do. I am fully Yours. Make me more and more like You, Jesus! I surrender my life completely to You.”
We also repent to our husbands – apologizing to them for our disrespect and control and deciding to learn to be the godly wives God calls us to be.
- Apologizing once is probably sufficient.
- A brief apology WITHOUT any explanation or justification of our sin is often best.
I realize now that I have been very disrespectful toward you and very controlling. I see now how wrong I have been. I am SO sorry! I couldn’t even see all of my sin until now. I apologize for my sinful attitudes and behavior and words. I want to become the wife God desires me to be and that you need me to be. I have a lot to learn. I pray you can be patient with me as I ask God to teach me and change me. I want to respect you and honor your leadership from this moment on. I am very new at all of this, so, I may need help. It is kind of like learning a foreign language to me. Maybe you can let me know when I am being disrespectful or controlling, please.”
3. WE WANT TO LIVE IN A CAVE – THE FRUSTRATING QUIET PHASE
I personally wanted to go live in a cave by myself for the rest of my life for quite awhile after God convicted me and I repented. I saw my sin. I knew how sinful I was. I realized that almost every word out of my mouth was sin. But I didn’t know how else to talk or think yet.
This is the phase where:
- we learn to hold back and not say everything that we think in our minds
- we begin to learn wisdom and discretion by stopping the negative, critical, hateful, prideful, bossy, condescending, judging, cutting sarcastic comments
- we stop bashing and criticizing our husbands to others
- at this point, we are still thinking the disrespectful, controlling thoughts, we are just trying not to say the thoughts
- it can feel like trying to hold back an ocean of negative emotions
- this phase is not sustainable forever – it can feel like “faking it” or “acting” at first, because we are not voicing our sinful thoughts
- if we have been very verbal, this can feel extremely awkward and very, very quiet
- we begin to step down out of the leadership role
- we begin to allow our husbands to make decisions
- we lay down all of our expectations of our husbands and of God
- we recognize the source of many of our thoughts about our husbands – “My Demon“
- we take our emotional and spiritual hands off of our husbands’ necks
- we may pull back emotionally from others (for me, I pulled back from everyone) in our lives as we try to figure out how to talk to people without sinning with our words
- we may need to repent to other people (coworkers, friends, extended family) for our disrespect and control as well as our gossip and our negativity. Usually, if a woman is controlling with her husband, she is also controlling with others as well. I sure was!
- this can be lonely, and we may not feel like we have a lot of outside support during this time
- ideally, we would have a godly mentoring wife to talk with during this time and/or godly girlfriends who will support us on this journey and who are committed to respecting our husbands and holding us accountable for our sin
4. SEEKING GOD FIRST – THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST
We must tear out the idols and dig out all of the sin. We allow God to reveal to us more and more sin and we shovel it out. We lay still on the operating table as He does open heart surgery on us and searches the deepest, darkest corners of our souls for every trace of ungodliness and gangrene so that He can remove it. This is PAINFUL! This happens many times in layers. As we continue to go, God reveals deeper and deeper layers of sin.
This is where we “give up on our dreams for our marriage”
This is no quick and easy process. It is God completely tearing out all of our old sinful nature. The sinful nature does NOT want to die. It is a battle. We dig down to the foundation of Christ and get rid of everything else we think we know about God, about ourselves, about being a Christian, about godly femininity, about godly masculinity, about marriage… And we rebuild on the truth of Christ and His Word alone. It is a total regeneration of our hearts, souls and minds. The tearing out of the old sinful stuff comes first. Every idol has to go.
We must identify our idols, things we have been cherishing more than Christ. Sometimes we can identify them by looking at our deepest fears. Our idols are often the opposite of our greatest fears.
For me, some of my idols were:
- SELF and being in control – I trusted myself, not God. To get rid of this idol felt like I was flinging myself spiritually off of a cliff. It was terrifying to feel like I was giving up control to God. Of course, now I know that I didn’t actually have control. It was all an illusion. The only power I really had was to destroy my fellowship with Christ and my marriage. But I had been living as if I was in charge of my life and circumstances and other people’s lives since I was about 5. I didn’t understand the sovereignty of God. So it was scary giving control to God at first.
- feeling loved by Greg – I had to decide to find my contentment in Christ alone, not in my feelings or in Greg
- Greg – I wanted him to be responsible for my happiness and if I wasn’t happy, it was his fault. I expected him to meet needs for me that only Jesus could meet. I drowned him with my neediness. He could never do enough to satisfy me. Eventually, he stopped trying. When I idolize a person, I become a black hole of need to them. I repel them. Only God can meet these deepest needs of my soul for purpose, value, identity, acceptance, security, feeling loved and only He can give me real joy, peace and contentment.
- romance – I personally had to stop reading all romance novels, even Christian rated G ones, and stop watching romantic movies because they created false expectations in me for what I expected Greg to do and they helped to create a spirit of discontentment in me. (breaking the romance addiction)
Seeking God first requires TIME in God’s Word, study and much prayer.
It also requires us to humble ourselves before Him and open our hearts to everything He wants to show us and say to us. It requires my willingness to acknowledge that God has wisdom, I do not.
To tear out all the idols, we must confront our deepest fears. I personally had to write down my deepest fears and then wrestle with whether God is really who He says He is in the Bible or not and is He able to handle my fears or not. And if He is really sovereign, and He were to allow me to go through some of my biggest fears – can I trust Him? Will I be ok?
- What if my husband dies?
- What if one of us got a terminal illness?
- What if one of our children died or got very sick?
- What if we lose our jobs?
- What if the government collapses and the nation is destroyed and we are living in ruins?
Is God big enough and sovereign enough that He can take care of me even if He allows one of these things to happen?
We submit ourselves fully to Christ as Lord.
Stages of this Journey:
SOME TANGIBLE THINGS THAT HELPED ME KEEP MY FOCUS – these are things that helped me greatly in the beginning of my journey, and they are things I still do. Could be some things to prayerfully consider, pray about and seek God’s will for your life. The internal is the primary thing. If we are doing these things out of a desire to please God and honor Him and to bless our husbands – these can be very good things.
- Praying with respect for my husband’s leadership – (why I began covering my head when I pray I Corinthians 11:3-16)