The tagline for this blog includes the phrase, “Aspiring to be a godly wife”.
Well, I think I’m finally going to start working at that. And Carolyn Mahaney is going to help me.
Her book, Feminine Appeal, is not the first book I’ve read about biblical marriage. The Excellent Wife and The Fruitful Wife have both made an appearance on my reading list. Ooh, they made me so mad. It was the “I’m convicted, but darn it, don’t make me feel bad about myself” kind of mad, so it ended up being good in the end.
Feminine Appeal, however, introduces different ways to look at specific events during marriage. The other books were magnificent in helping me point out in my own life where I need to learn to submit to my husband as I submit to Christ.
They taught me that being a Christian woman whose besetting sin is anger is not all that rare and that I can — with the grace of Jesus Christ — overcome it.
They taught me that sometimes just biting my tongue sharply and praying fervently can save an afternoon, week, or lifetime of arguments and resentment.
But they didn’t really emphasize the love.
I know that sounds uber hippie, so let me clarify.
I do not know how to love my husband the way a Christian wife should.
Here’s a fun fact Mahaney unearths for me in her second chapter: Wives are not commanded to love their husbands with agape love.
Let me explain.
She carefully lays out the Greek words used in the context of husbands loving wives and wives loving husbands. Agape is used only for husbands. Husbands are to agape their wives. In the Greek, this is better translated to a self-sacrificing love.
Meanwhile, wives are commanded to phileo their husbands. This is still love. But oh, it is a different kind of love. It is tender, passionate, nurturing, fond love.
I love what she says about this:
I believe that Scripture’s specific commands to husbands and wives regarding their duties in marriage attest to our respective weaknesses. Men may be weaker in showing sacrificial love and are therefore exhorted to undertake it. But I believe women are generally weaker in exhibiting an affectionate love — thus the instructions given to us in Titus 2.
And the more I think about it, the more accurate her explanation seems. Loving tenderly does not come naturally to me. And really, it has to be harder for women. Granted, there are women who are more inclined toward tenderness, but think about it: even if their love in marriage has dulled a bit after several years of kids and schedules, even if their marriage seems in a rut, even if their husbands are “certified jerks”, most wives continue to self-sacrifice.
They continue to cook, to clean, to organize, to decorate, to budget, to whatever. Self-sacrifice seems to be a woman’s lot.
And yet constant, tender love that increases year after year? Seems a lot harder. At least to me.
I’m supposed to love. Whether I feel like Mister deserves it or not. I can easily say that I love him. But phileo is to be in love. Am I continually always in love with my husband?
You might say, “Girl, you’re only just over a year married. You’re still newlyweds. Give us a break.”
And I say, “Ha!”
Because the desires of the flesh don’t pause during “newlywed season”. I am still a selfish sinner. I still war with the old self within me. I still don’t deserve the love and grace given to me by Jesus Christ. And I can already see my attitude towards my husband taking a slow but dangerous turn.
It happens. But why not prepare myself? Why not begin practicing tenderness and love towards my husband now?
I am not a good wife. Not at all. But there is hope for selfish wives like me — Jesus Christ, our ultimate husband. By His grace alone, I can battle this.
Our gracious God delights to honor our obedience. As we seek to prize, cherish, and enjoy our husbands, He will freely fill our hearts with love and affection for them.