Opportunity Knocks-Loud and Obnoxious

Yesterday was a bad “grace” day. By mid-afternoon I was pleading with God to take my physical discomfort away, reminding Him (because He needs reminders) of all the things I needed to do and how my pain was hindering His kingdom work.

I didn’t get a response.

Sometimes, no response IS the response as He allows me to see the foolishness of my human thought processes.

As I contemplated what to write about today, maybe a new 2-Minute devo, God finally offered a suggestion.

Be honest.

Oh, right, good idea.

The truth is, after my latest blog series on respect, serving spouses, and nagging, God gave me ample opportunities to practice what I “preached”. The problem is, The Little Man was pounding away at the base of my neck and showing grace to my husband took a backseat to my personal discomfort.  I mean, should I really be required to serve, respect, love and honor my husband (who was having a “Let’s pick on my wife” kind of day) when I feel like a ten ton truck is running through, over, around, and under my head?

It’s a hypothetical question, of course. No matter how I feel, I still have the Holy Spirit within me, and I can still choose to follow or ignore His voice.

I wanted to come back from the weekend victoriously triumphant of my successful obedience to God’s word (hello, pride, not good to see you again).  I wanted to proclaim how listening to Psalm 119 every morning and night had radically altered my attitude. But the reality is, no matter how much I’ve learned or how much I’ve grown spiritually, I am still susceptible to miserable failures and as I stated previously, yesterday was a bad “grace” day. I failed to show my family grace.

The overwhelming voice of the Holy Spirit beckoned me to humble myself to my husband last night, and I did. We didn’t go to bed angry, but the day was largely wasted on hurtful words and angered silence.

My dad once told me God will take us around the tree as many times as needed until we learn the lesson. Well, I’ve been going around this tree for years. I have suffered with several chronic health problems, and despite diet changes and commitment to take care of my body, I still have issues. However, being in pain doesn’t give me a license to mistreat my family. It never will. Sooner or later I will need to let God show Himself through my attitude while I am sick, not just when I feel great.

Around the tree I go.

As I read Luke 15:11-24 I am moved to tears once again. This story is so meaningful in my life, and it rings true this morning. God hasn’t condemned me for falling on my face yesterday; He has celebrated my return to His way today. He stands with me in my pain and assures me he won’t give me more than I can handle (1 Cor. 10:13). He has allowed this circumstance and He can use it for His glory now that I’ve confessed my pride and selfishness.  There was no room for God to work in my life yesterday because I was arrogantly taking His place.

Today is a new day. I am not a failure but a victor. I don’t always get it right, but I’m beginning to recognize the signs of pride and put them to death quickly on His cross. Whether a prodigal for ten minutes or ten years, He is always waiting to celebrate a humble return to His throne.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Where much grace is shown, much should be given.

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Nagging Emasculation

There are few things more emasculating than an incessantly nagging wife. It sends him the message (over and over and over and over…) that he is not good enough, he’s a failure, he’s an idiot, and he’s completely incapable of being the husband she wants. Living under these circumstances for any length of time a man starts to give up; he can’t do anything right anyways.

I don’t bring it up to say I have conquered this problem. Part of me wonders if nagging is a gene inherent to wives, but I know the truth. Nagging is inherent to my fleshly nature and desire to have my own way when I want it, how I want it, and any cost to my husband’s self-esteem.

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.” (Prov. 27:15) In other words, a nagging wife is tantamount to ancient Chinese versions of water torture. Ouch. The last thing I want is to torture my hard-working husband with my words. Shaunti Feldhahn notes this principle in her book For Women Only, as she interviews thousands of men to find out what they really think about these issues.

“Instead of affirming, a wife reinforces her husband’s feelings of inadequacy, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if we focus our attention on what he is doing wrong in the relationship, we can unwittingly undermine what we most want–for him to do what is right–I discovered a dismaying fact. Of the men I surveyed, only one man in four felt actively appreciated by his family.  And 44 percent of men felt unappreciated at home. More pointedly, men in their prime years of responsibility for home, children, and work–men between the ages of thirty-six and fifty-five–felt even less appreciated. ” (p. 68)

Ladies, what’s going on!? Surely we can do better than that! Biblical standards don’t change based on our circumstances (working or staying-at-home). A glance at Proverbs 31 easily testifies to this. The virtuous woman not only works, but “watches over the affairs of her household” (vs. 27) receiving the praise of her husband and children. I didn’t see anything in that chapter about nagging her husband to take out the trash, pick up his clothes, fix the garage door, or close the toilet seat.

After nearly nine years I have finally given up the battle to change my husband. Instead, I am replacing the nagging tendencies with those of praise and support. God is allowing me to recognize my husband’s deep seated insecurities and giving me opportunities to combat them with supportive attitudes and actions.

I can take out the trash myself, or tear down my husband the second he steps in the doorway because he didn’t do it.

I can keep the house clean so when he comes home he’s not tripping over toys, or I can allow my daughter to do whatever she wants while I’m busy plucking away on my computer, telling my husband I’m too busy to care what he thinks of the house.

I can scoop the dog poop myself, or I can spend an hour complaining to my husband about how disgusting the yard is, scheduling work for him to do on his next day off.

I can pick up his dirty socks from every place but the hamper, or I can send him an angry text message explaining how once again, I cleaned up after him and he needs to grow up.

Simply put, I can keep my mouth shut. Turn off the faucet. Stop the incessant dripping.

I can ask God to replace the nagging words with those of praise and affirmation. I can spend all day cleaning up my husband’s messes, and still choose to tell him how much I appreciate his hard work, refusing to bring attention to his short-comings.

“Men need a place where they can make their mistakes in peace.” For Women Only (p. 71)

I want to treat my husband how I’d like him to treat me. I want to show him–with my actions more than my words–the love of Jesus. I want to actively refuse to point out his faults and choose to let God expose my own. I can forgive his down-falls like Jesus has forgven mine. I can show mercy like I’m given mercy by my righteous Savior. By God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, I can turn emasculation into affirmation by simply seeking God’s desire for me as a wife.

“Your beauty…should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(1 Pet. 3:4)

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

Serving Spouses

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Yesterday my husband arrived home from work much earlier than usual. Normally this sends me in a panic, having developed a steady routine I don’t like interrupted. I took a moment to refocus on my calling (having just finished writing about it) and prepared to be confronted with ways to “practice what I preach”.

Within a half hour he was suggesting going places and doing things I was completely uninterested in. I found myself blurting out “ok, let’s go” before I even knew what was happening. (Thanks, God.) It’s amazing how well things go when an attitude is changed. Knowing that I was first and foremost being obedient to Christ allowed me to enjoy the process of serving my husband.

There have been many times in the past I grudgingly went along with what he wanted to do, but my horrible attitude ruined the process for us both.  God has used the good and bad experiences to teach me what it means to be a servant-help-meet to my husband. One day my husband, surprised by my attitude changes, exclaimed, “What’s gotten into you?!” Oh, not much, honey, just the Holy Spirit’s conviction!

I’d love to end this note with a “happily-ever-after” statement of my husband’s changed heart for Jesus, but I cannot do that-yet. I do believe 1 Peter 3:1-2₁and the principles it outlines. My husband may very well have a change of heart someday because he saw God’s change in my heart first. It’s not just about being different then I was eight years ago when we met; it’s about a heart change that’s only explained by the supernatural power of the Living God. My husband is still of the thought that “all good things come to an end”, sitting back waiting for me to “get over it” with “religion”. It’s been several years and he’s stubborn to say the least, but I know no matter how long it takes, my calling to love, honor, obey, and commitment in prayer over him will never change, even if he never changes.

Can you imagine how decades of loving service, submission, respect and companionship could possibly affect him? It may take that long, it may not. It may never happen. In any case, it’s what I’ve been called to do. In fact, it’s what every wife has been called to do, regardless of their husband’s spiritual state.

I’ve been counseled by women of faith to divorce my husband over our differences, and, having already been divorced I’ll admit it was enticing at one point. But God hasn’t called me to take the easy way out. I’ve made it clear to my husband that if he ever brought home divorce papers, no matter what happened, I would not sign them-ever. I believe that is what God called me to do; relentlessly pursue reconciliation at all costs and refuse to give up.

In a message a few weeks ago at church, Pastor Pat said something that had me in tears. He talked about doing the best we can with what we’ve been given right where we are, and at that moment God spoke to my heart, “serve him”. That was my calling, that was how I could do the best with what I had where I was-serving my husband. I grieved thinking how often I had an attitude about getting up at 2:30am to make his breakfast before he went to work, and how many times I had refused to do it then complained at the end of the week how much money he spent eating out (poor guy).

I’m not perfect, and confessing my failures being a servant-wife is frequent in my prayer life, however God’s mercies are new every morning₂ and He provides ample opportunities to show love to my husband through service.  I challenge you, if you’re a wife, to ask God how you can better serve your husband today. Not just the regular “cleaning up after him” sort of things, but something extraordinary. Something that would make him exclaim, “what’s gotten into you?!” And if you’re a husband, you’re not off the hook. Loving your wife as Christ loves the church₃ is a high calling not to be taken for granted (in fact, it’s impossible to love your wife as described in Ephesians without His indwelling spirit). Meanwhile, be thankful to your wife when you see she’s making an effort. Let her know you appreciate it and watch her be motivated to do more!

The following Scripture quotes have been taken from the New International Version.

  1. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
  2. Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  3. Ephesians 5:25-30 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are all members of his body.”

Just Need a Little R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I awoke at 3:30am to the struggling gasps of my husband. I’m not going to lie, it frightened me. He’s struggled with his weight and some other harmful habits, so I wondered if he was having a heart attack. He got up, gasping, and went to lie on the couch. Later he said he thought he might have had a bad dream, but wasn’t sure what had caused the difficulty breathing.

I found myself praying for him in ways I don’t usually do. Along with prayer, I was reminded of the way I’ve struggled to be a Biblical wife. Our relationship tends to resemble really good friends who sleep in the same house but otherwise live different lives. I know I can’t control how he acts and feels, but I can allow God to re-shape my thinking.

First one on the list is my respect level. Admittedly, it’s hard to respect someone who disagrees with me about nearly everything, especially spiritual matters. Regardless, I am called to respect (Eph. 5:33₁), and submit to my husband (1 Pet. 3:5₂, Eph. 5:22₃, Col. 3:18₄) whether or not he is acting as spiritual leader of the home. (“Submit” in Greek literally means to obey, be under obedience, put under, subdue unto, or subject and “respect” [used in Eph. 5:33] can be translated reverence, fear, or to be in awe.)

Every time I roll my eyes, think to myself how right I am and how wrong he is, talk about him in a negative manner, or choose to do something he has made clear he’s against (even if it’s a church function),  I have disrespected him.

Just because I am a Jesus follower and he is not, doesn’t mean I am any better than him (Col. 3:23-25₅, Phil. 2:3₆). He still commands my submission, as my husband. Most hear the word submit and assume it demeans the woman, involving slave work. I  look at it as “servant” work. I am to serve my husband, whether I work outside the home or not, he is my husband and I am his wife, he is the head, I am the help-meet (Gen. 2:20-24₇). Sometimes that means allowing him to make the decisions, even if they’re not Biblical. Who do I think I am, anyways? Do I not serve a God big enough to change my husband’s heart? Does God really need my help to show my husband “the light”? I think not. My biggest witness will be my attitude (1 Pet. 3:1-2₈).

So I am on a new mission to revisit some books and studies I dug into last summer about Biblical womanhood and living in a spiritually mismatched relationship. This morning I opened up “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn. In this book the author interviews thousands of men about issues like respect, sex, and self-esteem so the entire book is written for women from the view-point of men. It’s an eye-opener for sure.

“Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except their home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgment more than their own wives did…more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.” (pp. 29-30)

Lord, help me.  There is so much dirt in my heart that still needs cleaning. Most importantly I must remember that service to my husband is not an attempt to manipulate or change him, but rather an act of obedience to the revealed will of God in His word. That alone should motivate me. I may not always get my way, and I may have to set aside my desires to allow my husband to make the decisions, but it will be noted by the One who designed the marriage relationship. After all, it is not really my husband whom I serve, but my Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:5₉)

The following Scriptures were taken from the New International Version

  1. Ephesians 5:33b “The wife must respect her husband.”
  2. 1 Peter 3:5 “This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands.”
  3. Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
  4. Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
  5. Colossians 3:23-25 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”
  6. Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
  7. Genesis 2:20b-24 “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
  8. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
  9. Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”

The Fame Game

“He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Suggested reading: John 3:25-25

What is the essence of glory? I was recently struck with this question and wanted to find a suitable answer. The obvious reaction is something like, “God should get the glory,” or “All praise is God’s” and other pious Christian-ese. If you actually sit and think about it, what does “Give glory to God” really mean? Just because I pray, “All glory to YOU” doesn’t mean I am glorifying God. Just because I say, “I want to give God glory” doesn’t mean I am glorifying God.

First I googled “What does it mean to glorify God” and the answer (gotanswers.org) popped up, several paragraphs long. It mentioned several of the above statements, using verses that talk specifially about glorifying God. They were great references but they still weren’t satisfying my curiosity on the issue. I wanted to know what it looks like for ME to give God glory. Is it singing hymns while scrubbing toilets? I could do that out of duty, not love or adoration.

As I sought the Holy Spirit’s guidance, John 3:30 came to mind. “He must become greater; I must become less.” Now that seems like the essence of glory to me; answering the question: who is getting the credit?

It begins with an argument. John (the Baptist) had his own disciples who followed him around, faithfully supporting his ministry. They got wind of something they thought John should know. You see, there was this Man who had the nerve to take over John’s ministry of baptism! John’s disciples were warning him that this Man was getting all the attention, in fact people were flocking to Him in unprecedented numbers.

How would I react if I had a nice little ministry with people flocking to me for answers and counsel, then all of a sudden someone else comes along and steals my thunder? My first reaction would probably be jealousy. Knowing my luck, that person would probably be more beautiful and desirable in every way, knocking me a few more notches down on the self-esteem pole. Figures. Guess I’ll have to give up and find somehwere else to be superior. Heaven knows I can’t share the spotlight with anyone. (Let’s face it, we all think like this from time to time.)

John replies much differently. He is not threatened, jealous, or angry at the Man bull-dozing the ministry he developed. Quite the contrary, he is encouraging this Man! He goes on a 9 verse diatribe of the greatness of this ministry and those God has chosen to complete His purpose. Whether or not John is in the spotlight, he is completely content knowing God’s will is being accomplished. He says, “The one who comes from heaven is above all,” and “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.” (vs 31, 35).

What does it mean to glorify God? The name of Jesus increasing and my name decreasing.

I had a Pastor say to me, “You have some mad skills” after playing a difficult piano piece with the worship band. Although I was greatly encouraged, I also tried to remember where I came from and how hard I had worked just to master that piece. In fact, mastering it is something I would definitely not claim, it needs a lot more work. Point being, when someone  hears what I play, or marvels at a glorious photo I’ve managed to shoot, I want them to be pointed to Christ. I want them to think, “That’s amazing, God!” or “Thank You for that gift, Jesus“. These are the praises that went through my mind recently when I attended a concert. There was a symphony of musicians from a multitude of churches in our area. These people were crazy talented! When I left that concert I remember saying to my friend, “I think it’s amazing how people so talented are completely content with serving God in this way, rather than pursuing professional contracts or success in the secular market.” You see, throughout this concert Jesus’ name was increased through the beautiful music, while the musicians were merely tools to lift high his Name.

As I reflect on what “gloryifying God” means for me, I am motivated to spend more time on my knees seeking new ways to keep the spotlight on Him.

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” Psalm 29:2