Teachers of Good things is a series of interviews we will be conducting on Tuesdays and Thursdays here at Ruby in the Rough. It is our goal with these interviews to follow the instructions found in Titus 2:3-5 for the "older women" to teach the younger women good things such as: loving their husbands, keeping their home, and conducting themselves with all purity both before and after marriage.
Today I'll be sharing my own thoughts on the interview questions we've been considering the last couple weeks.
As a single woman, before a serious relationship, what were some practical things you did to focus more on the Lord and less on guys and romance?
Since my mid-teens my relationship with the Lord has been a priority. I have spent a great deal of time journaling to the Lord and memorizing scripture (including most of Romans and Proverbs, in addition to some shorter passages). I would particularly focus on this when I struggled with thoughts.
One of the most practical decisions I made was to not discuss crushes and "cute boys" with any other person--close friend or not. This made it MUCH easier for me to not obsess about boys. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
Also, I learned to think of my future husband as a living breathing person, whom I could choose to love or hurt by my present actions. When I began thinking this way it put a huge damper on my thoughts about young men. Yes, I still did wonder about certain boys, but I didn't obsess about them because I didn't want to be unfaithful to my future husband in my mind. Ironically, the individual who introduced me to this concept was Richard, many years before we thought about marriage. I guess he had no idea at the time how he was influencing his future wife to greater purity!
What steps did you take after you met your future spouse (during dating/courtship/engagement) to keep your focus on the LORD first?
"And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband." 1 Cor. 7:35
The greatest challenge for me was the transition period between being mentally an "unmarried" woman and mentally a "married" woman. This transition happens during the stage leading up to marriage, as a young woman learns to look up to her future husband as her spiritual leader.
Richard helped a lot during this time, by stepping forward and taking his role as spiritual leader seriously. We spent a great deal of time praying together, studying the Bible together, and focusing on the Lord. It also gave us a great opportunity to study what the Bible said on various topics to determine how we wanted our "Family culture" to look like after we were married.
How do you think a single woman should pursue/prepare for marriage?
Developing her relationship with the Lord is the most needful thing a woman can do before marriage. If a woman who has a heart set on pleasing the Lord, marries a man with the same kind of heart, there will be no marriage difficulty that can't be overcome.
A few other useful things:
Develop a humble spirit. Be ready to admit when you are wrong, and willing to accept the rebuke when someone points out a blind spot. If anyone sees your blindspots after marriage it will be your husband, and if he loves you, he'll tell you about them. You need to be able to accept this loving critique in the manner it was intended, and not get upset.
Learn to be joyful--in everything! A thankful spirit will breathe life into your husband. Another aspect of this is to be playful and enjoy life. Your enthusiasm will be contagious. Also, if you already have an attitude of contentment you will not struggle with living over your future husbands means (which can be very discouraging to him).
Learn to submit willingly. This is hard to do, because we all like to have our own way. But if a woman refuses to submit, it is very difficult for a husband to actually take the leadership role. Enable your husband to be the leader you want him to be.
My husband has told me he is grateful that I always had a job of some sort before I was married that required me to work certain hours outside of the home. This gives me a greater appreciation for the work that he does day in and day out to support the family, the kind of appreciation that I would not have had if I'd never experienced the same thing (on a smaller scale) most of my life.
In what area were you the least [and/or most] prepared to be a wife?
The biggest struggle I had after marriage was my own expectations of myself. I had a picture in my head of what a good housewife looked like:
She keeps her house spotlessly clean, tastefully decorating the home with handmade items, hosts others, enjoys close relationships with all extended family members, finishes laundry promptly (and NEVER left it lying around in the bedroom!), has delicious home cooked meals on the table every evening, sends him to work with tasty lunches that make all the co-workers jealous (NEVER something so simple and boring as a sandwich! ESPECIALLY not a PBJ!) and waits at the door for her husband with a big kiss every evening when he gets home from work..
I expected myself to live up to those ideals every single day, even though I was also working two emotionally draining jobs and heavily involved with church. My husband gave me grace, but I didn't give myself grace. As a result, if there was an area that wasn't reflecting the above ideal I believed I was letting my husband down (although in reality the only person who was discontent was myself). I got very upset with myself for not being a better wife. At the worst times I'd actually get frustrated with my husband because I was overwhelmed and angry with myself and expected him to intuitively understand why. I never actually told him the problem, and rarely asked for help, so getting upset with him was completely irrational. But my attitude of condemnation toward myself couldn't help spilling over and effecting him also. (Praise God for patient, forgiving husbands!)
What would you have done differently [and/or what you did] as a single woman to prepare for this?
I could have worked on the ability to recognize my own boundaries (flexibility), a willingness to ask for help when needed (humility), and the understanding that sometimes personal ideals need to be adjusted to reflect current reality.
What does being a helpmate look like in your marriage?
As my husband’s wife I am the "safe place" he can come to. I listen to him, follow his lead, and support him. I'm his playmate--the one he can let his guard down around and just laugh with. When I have a question I seek his advice first--especially in spiritual matters. I tell him often, both in public and in private, how much he means to me and how much I admire him. I encourage him to be a better man by lavishing praise on the positive. I make his house a home and provide tasty and wholesome meals. We work together financially to achieve set goals (which means I work within a budget!). I give him freedom to have occasional nights out with the guys, and pursue his own passions.
Because my husband is on staff at our church, part of being a help-meet to him is a certain level of involvement at church. Part of that is pursuing (with God's calling and my husband's support) a couple ministries independent of him. Part of it is jumping in whole-heartedly in areas/ministries that he is passionate about. And part of that is being willing to occasionally give him up to church responsibilities--whether it is accepting that certain evenings he has to be alone in his office working on Sunday's lesson, or keeping a joyful and gracious spirit when he is called away for an afternoon due to a church need.
What was the biggest surprise to you after marriage?
The amount of grace that my husband gave me, and how easy it is to please him. I'm not the best at giving grace to myself, and so the fact that he was so understanding about my limitations surprised me. He does like for the house to be picked up and meals on the table, but is far less picky in both areas than I am.
In regards to housework he STILL surprises me with his observational skills--many times he's walked in from work and commented appreciatively on how much nicer the house looks. I truly never expected my husband to notice and comment on something as simple as a vacuumed floor! (his observational skills only seem to function on the positive, though. He may comment appreciation when the floor is vacuumed, but he doesn't seem to notice the many days it isn't. I'm sure this is intentional on his part--and it's another thing I love about him!)
What is one thing about men you learned after marriage?
Knee jerk answer? That everything I read in the books is true. Especially this:
RESPECT is a really BIG DEAL.
Seriously. That needs to be bolded, underlined, and about 10 fonts bigger. :-P
Don't tease your husband. Don't order him around like he's a child. Don't nag. Don't act like you are his mommy. Don't compete with him. Don't talk to other people about his weaknesses or failures (even if they don't seem like a big deal to you). Don't treat another man's opinions or advice as better than your husbands--even if the "other man" is your dad, pastor, or favorite preacher.
Treat your hubby like a man--capable, independent, wise and strong. Let him slay your dragons, and appreciate (verbally) that he's done so. Thank him often. Brag on him. Ask his advice because you genuinely care what he says, and then actually listen to it. Ask him what his priorities are for your day--and then work down HIS priority list instead of YOUR priority list (they are usually different).