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Why Do I Have to Change First?

Greg and me on our wedding day – May 28, 1994

We are continuing the series of FAQs that I hear from wives.  This has to be one of the most common questions I hear.

He’s the one who is being so unloving!  He’s the one who is far from God.  He should have to change first.  This isn’t fair that I should have to ask God to change me first!

BLAMING IS EASY

It’s much easier to point at my husband and tell God, “He needs to change!  Look how sinful he is!”  In fact, that is exactly what I did for over 14 years in my marriage.  Guess where it got me?

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Prov. 14:1

My focusing on my husband’s sin caused me to be a foolish wife who tore down her marriage and her husband. My approach was destructive to him, to our marriage, to our children, and to myself. I can’t think of ONE good thing that me focusing on my husband’s sin while ignoring my own sin accomplished.

NOTE – If your husband has extreme issues (abuse, infidelity, addictions, uncontrolled mental health/spiritual issues) please seek an experienced, godly counselor or appropriate resources right away. Me focusing on my own obedience to God and repenting of my sin doesn’t mean I need to “stay and take abuse” or stay when a husband is being unfaithful and breaking our marriage covenant. There are times in severe situations where a godly wife does need to prayerfully consider separation.

THANKFULLY, GOD IS WILLING TO GIVE ME ABUNDANT GRACE, RATHER THAN WHAT IS “FAIR”

Let’s talk about what is “fair” for a moment.  If I want “fair” – here is what is fair:

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23
  • The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  The things I have done wrong in God’s sight have earned me hell.  If I have even just one sin in my life (like Adam and Eve did) – according to the holy God and Judge of the universe – I deserve death and separation from Him forever. Or, to use another word for it, hell.  God cannot tolerate sin – any sin – in His holy presence.  He cannot ignore it.  Someone has to pay for it in blood.  And I have infinitely more than just one sin in my heart.  I deserve condemnation.
  • As a sinner – I don’t “deserve” anything good from God at all.
  • Because I am a sinner, I have no “rights” before God.

Maybe “fair” isn’t really what I want to pursue.

THANK GOD that Jesus was willing to step in on my behalf and take upon Himself all of the sin of my entire life and stand in my place, receiving the full wrath of God that my sins deserved.  That is CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is INSANE that Jesus would love me that much!  I did NOTHING to deserve His love. I owe Him MUCH.  I have been forgiven MUCH. Not only has He forgiven me. He has given me the right to become a child of God if I receive His gift and live for Him as LORD!

Now, I am free from the penalty of sin. God has given me eternal life with Him through Christ – not because I deserve it. I don’t! He does this because of His great love for me and because Jesus paid my massive debt to Him in full – and I have received that gift by faith.

This is so much better than if I had won $400 million in a lottery!  I truly GET this now!

I am no longer condemned before God!  

Now – because of my overwhelming gratitude, thankfulness and joy – I am His servant, ready to do anything He asks of me!  There is nothing He could ask me to do that I would not be willing to do after all He has done to rescue me from the gates of hell and to give me abundant spiritual life here and life forever with Him in heaven.

  • I don’t obey Him to be made right with Him.
  • I don’t obey Him to try to earn heaven.
  • Jesus alone earned heaven.  God now sees Jesus when He looks at me!  Just because I put ALL my faith in Him and made Him my LORD.
  • I obey Him because of what HE has done for me and the scandalous grace, mercy and forgiveness He has lavished on me, a wretched sinner.

Whoever “wakes up first” spiritually is responsible before God to be the one to change first.

IF HE IS MY SAVIOR AND LORD, I WANT TO DO ANYTHING HE ASKS OF ME OUT OF LOVE

Why on earth would I not be willing – after all that Christ has done for me – to humbly and joyfully do ANYTHING He asked me to do?  Why would I want to sit around in my own sin and not repent of my own sin and demand that God must change Greg first? That just doesn’t even make sense at all! It would be a completely inappropriate response to Christ.

Jesus calls on believers in Him to deal with our own sin first:

  • “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matt. 7:1-5

Why do I have to deal with my sin first?

  • This is what Jesus commands me to do and He is my Lord.
  • I am getting stumbling blocks out of the way for my husband.
  • I will have much clearer vision to deal with my husband’s sin if my own sin has been completely taken care of.
  • I have no godly influence when I am continuing to sin against my husband. He won’t want to listen to my concerns about his wrongdoing to me if I am purposely hurting him.
  • I will then have the power of the Holy Spirit to help me rightly deal with my husband in God’s power and wisdom.

If I really and truly “get” what Jesus has done for me – I am going to be raising my hand as high as I can saying,

“Oh, Jesus!!!!  Pick me!!  Pick me!  Change ME first!  Get rid of all of my sin first! Don’t let me stay in this filth and nastiness another minute!!!!  Show me what you want to change in my heart!  Make me the woman You desire me to be!  I don’t care what it takes.  I don’t care what You ask me to do.  I don’t care how much it hurts or what the cost is to myself – I want to please and honor You with all my heart and life!!!  You do whatever You want to with my husband.  I trust him to Your hands.  Just don’t leave me here.  Change me!”

What if God wants to change me first and wants me to obey Him until…. Until the day I die. Until the day my husband dies. Ok – if that is what God wants – that needs to be ok with me.  I want to trust Him and obey Him no matter what the future holds and seek His highest glory.

What if His greatest concerns with me are for me to be conformed to the image of Christ and to reach my husband and others for His kingdom?

WHAT IF GOD KNOWS I NEED TO CHANGE FIRST SO THAT HE CAN REACH MY HUSBAND?

What if I am standing squarely in God’s way in my husband’s life?  What if my sin (pride, disrespect, contentiousness, self-righteousness, idolatry of my husband/happiness/romance, or control) is keeping my husband from hearing God’s voice?  What if God wants me to change first because I am causing destruction and damage in my marriage and in my husband’s soul?

In my marriage, that is exactly what was happening.

Here is why God wanted to change me first (- one of the reasons, at least.  I am sure there are many I don’t even know about.):

  • Greg told me years later that when I stopped all the criticism, negativity, lecturing, telling him what to do, all the disrespect… that it was like someone “turned off the static on the speaker in his soul that had God’s voice.”  He began to hear God’s voice again for the first time in many years.
  • Then, he said, when I began to add the positive things – the encouragement, the praise for what he did right, the genuine admiration and building him up with my words – it was like someone put an “amplifier on the speaker with God’s voice.”

What if God knows that He needs to change me first in order to reach my husband?  Isn’t that totally worth it?  If there are things I can do to become God’s partner and to cooperate with Him in drawing my husband to God and to myself –  I would be crazy not to be willing to do those things – whatever they might be.

Here are God’s prescriptions for us when our husbands are far from Himself:

This is ALL about Christ, my precious sisters.  It is all about HIS glory.  It is not about us. 🙂

Much love to you!

FAQs

  • This seems like more than I can handle (part 1)
  • When do I get to the “peaceful” part? (part 1)
  • I don’t want to lose my voice in my marriage. (part 2)
  • I feel like I am losing myself. (part 2)
  • I feel so lonely. (part 3)
  • I don’t know how to say things respectfully to my husband, so I am just not saying anything at all. (part 3)
  • My husband isn’t changing at all.   (part 4)
  • Respect doesn’t work on my husband. (part 4)
  • But I’m right! (part 5)
  • I’m so scared to give up control!  I should be in charge. Everything will fall apart if I don’t take charge! (part 5)
  • He doesn’t deserve my respect! (part 6)
  • My husband doesn’t love me and is not on board with this marriage. (part 6)
  • Why can’t HE change first?  Why do I have to change when he’s the one who is so far from God and so unloving?

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How I Handle the Toilet Seat Being Left Up and Other Quandaries

There are some things that are universal struggles in almost every marriage.  Sometimes these tiny little insignificant things can turn into huge issues and fights, unfortunately.

So what is a wife to do when her husband constantly leaves the toilet seat up, and she ends up splashing in the nasty toilet water in the middle of the night?  Or what is a wife to do when her husband doesn’t help with the laundry, or leaves dirty clothes all over the bedroom, or leaves wet towels on the bed or tracks dirt and mud through the house after she just vacuumed and mopped – again?

SOME PERSPECTIVE

One thing that helps me A LOT is to talk with widows and read the stories of widows.  There was an article about some of the September 11th widows and they all talked about how hard it was to hear wives complaining about these little inconveniences that come with living with a husband.  They talked about how much they WISHED they could have those kinds of “problems” again and have their men back in their lives.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

Here is how I handle some of those little annoying things now that used to get under my skin and fill me with resentment.   Yes, you could ask very respectfully, and probably only once (or occasionally) – “Honey, would you please do X?  I would appreciate it so much!”  But if that doesn’t work…

  • the toilet seat – Now, I just assume that the seat is probably up.  So I feel in the dark and yep, it’s up.  So I put it down and then I don’t fall in the toilet.  I don’t expect the seat to be down.  I live with a husband, and that is part of living with a man sometimes.  And I think about how glad I am to have him in my life.  I don’t nag him.  I don’t make any deal out of it at all.  I just changed my expectations.  It’s not that big of a deal!  You know what IS a big deal to God?  My resentment, bitterness and un-forgiveness.  Those are ugly sins in God’s book.  Leaving the toilet seat up is not a sin. I happen to know my husband’s heart well enough to know that he doesn’t purposely leave the seat up to try to annoy me. And, I always leave the seat down, so he has to put it up. He doesn’t complain about that!
  • clothes strewn around the bathroom/bedroom/wet towels on the floor or bed – Most of the time, my husband puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. If he doesn’t,  I take 2 seconds and put them in the hamper.  I don’t complain about it.  I don’t even think hateful thoughts.  It doesn’t upset me anymore at all.  It doesn’t take much of my time.  I think “I am so glad to be able to serve my husband and serve Jesus by taking care of him this way.”  And I don’t get the least bit annoyed.  I know I will probably be a widow in the next 10-30 years and I will have a very neat house and won’t have to clean up after anyone then.  And I know I will MISS my husband so much.  I want to savor every moment of being with him.  Who knows how many days we have left to enjoy each other’s company?  I don’t want to have any regrets.
  • dishes put into the dishwasher “wrong” –  I thank my husband for taking care of the dishes and cleaning up.  I hug him and kiss him and smile at him and tell him what an awesome man I have that he would do all of that for me!  Then when I take the dishes out of the dishwasher, if there are some that have crud on them, I soak them and rewash them. (Sometimes that happens when I load the dishwasher, too!) I could ask him to put them in a different way – respectfully. Or I could say, “Honey, the dishes don’t seem to be getting clean in the dishwasher,” and give him the chance to evaluate the situation. I don’t get angry.  I’m thankful for Greg’s willingness to help me with chores now.  Life has not always been like this!  So any time he helps me in ANY way, I thank him and pile on the praise and encouragement.  I do NOT criticize his help.  I appreciate him.
  • tracking dirt through the clean house – This actually happens a good bit when my husband is working on renovation projects at our house.  Thankfully, we have hardwood floors almost everywhere, so that makes it a bit easier.  I focus on the beautiful work my husband is doing to create my dream home for me.  That is one of the biggest ways he likes to show his love for me.  So, I don’t get on him about it at all.  I just wait until the work is done for the day and cheerfully sweep the floor again and thank him for the incredible job he’s doing on the house.  I don’t resent him.  I don’t get angry.  I hum or sing a praise song to God and I sweep the floor.  Then I go cuddle with my man after he gets cleaned up and I hug and kiss him and listen to him talk about all of his amazing plans for his latest project and I smile and appreciate having such a talented husband who loves me SO much that he is willing to do all that hard work just to delight me.

MY HUSBAND DOES A LOT FOR ME

I used to silently, or not so silently, keep score and try to weigh what I was doing in the marriage each day compared to my husband.  And I would resent him if I felt I had to do more chores around the house.  It helps a lot that I am not working as much anymore, so I have more time to spend on chores and I’m not trying to work a full time job AND do the housekeeping and be a wife and mother.  That was just WAY too much for me to handle!  Now I only work about 11-20 hours/week.

Now when I do work, my husband helps me.  I don’t usually ask him to do anything.  He feels so respected now, he just does it all on his own.  He’ll do laundry now, and even fold it and put it away!??!?  He’ll do the dishes now, especially days that I am working.  He’ll cook supper for me.  A man who feels greatly respected is wired by God to want to serve those who honor him. I don’t respect and honor him so that he will do things for me. But, he often does wonderful things these days just because he loves me and likes to see me smile.

Even before my husband was feeling a lot more respected and started helping me so much more, I began to change and see all the ways he contributes to our marriage, household and family and how he NEVER complains.  He takes care of all the outside chores and yard work.  He does the renovation projects.  He goes under the house and works on the ducts or the plumbing if needed.  Plumbing can get particularly nasty.  He doesn’t complain when he has to work on the sewage pipe and gets filthy.  He is MY HERO for being willing to do all that stuff for me.  He amazes me with his determination and perseverance and the way he seriously never complains no matter how hot it is in the attic when he’s putting insulation up there or how smelly and nasty it is under the house.  I can definitely find plenty of things to appreciate and thank him for and things to respect him for.  He contributes so much to making our house beautiful and safe and well-functioning.  How can I really measure what I do against all those things he does that I would NEVER be willing or able to do?

So, I don’t keep score anymore.  I just serve my husband and my Jesus with all my heart.  I sing songs to God all throughout the day.  I think about the things I respect and admire about my husband and all of his strengths.  And I am the happiest, most joyful and peaceful wife in the world.

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How has God inspired you to handle the little things that your husband does that used to annoy you? Maybe your story might inspire another wife!

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