Under the Influence… of Lies
(part 2 of Chapter 2 The Respect Dare: Foundations for Wives) … Continues from here…
What I found most difficult to reconcile was the incongruity between my marital happiness and my faith. I had bought one of the lies some in the Christian culture promulgate, perhaps you are familiar with it – the lie that if we follow Jesus, we will not have any more suffering or troubles? I remember hearing one woman say to a group of younger women that if we were not happy in our marriage, we just did not have enough faith. It made me angry. How could I have more? If we did not have happiness, we were not praying, obeying, or serving enough. While that may be true, I did not know enough about “following Jesus” to feel anything but frustrated – and it did not help.
So I “worked harder” at my faith and being a better wife. I signed up to serve everywhere I could. I even pretended I was happy because I thought I was not a “good enough Christian” if I was not smiling all the time. I worked part-time and tried very hard to be excellent as an employee. Most people in my personal life were Christians, and they certainly seemed happy – what I did not realize was that some legitimately were filled with joy, and others were merely pretending. I could not tell the difference.
Hopefully you have been smarter than me and not gone down this path of pretending. If you have, however, you know it leads to discouragement. Perhaps the most important thing I did not realize at this time was that I was simply an immature follower of Christ. I did not know very much about the Bible, God’s character, or how I could have a personal relationship with Him – or what that even actually looked like.
The most damaging part of this immaturity revealed itself when I became painfully aware of how much I wanted to be encouraged by and affirmed by the man I married. I did not make time for my interests, was not filled with the Holy Spirit, and as a result, looked to my husband to fill too many of my emotional needs. I had created an idol in my marriage, a fulfillment of Genesis 3:16, “Yet your desire will be for your husband.” Whether that verse deals with our desire for “control,” or our actual “turning” to our husband instead of God (in terms of fulfilling our emotional and relational needs), is irrelevant; the outcome emerges the same: disappointment.
Over the centuries, some attention has been given to the word commonly translated as “desire,” from Genesis 3:16. For around 500 years, the word in the text translated as “turning,” which means an emotional yearning in a certain direction. Our desire should be for our God, for Jesus, for the Lover of our soul, but instead, it is for our husband. Because of Eve’s deception, however, women long for relationship and fulfillment from their husbands, instead of God.
I also have heard this passage taught frequently as “The Curse of Eve,” however, nothing in the original text specifically mentions the word, “curse,” in relation to her. Yes, there are consequences for her because of what has happened, but she readily admits that she was deceived, and blames the serpent. I love it that she owns up to what happened! The ground is cursed for the man, and the serpent itself is cursed. The serpent tricked Eve, and she added to God’s words, saying they would die if they ate from the tree. What is interesting is in two other places, the Bible mentions how we should not add to God’s words or we will be rebuked, proven a liar, and receive plagues. It is interesting that John refers to Satan as a “murderer from the start,” as well, in John 8:44.
The text also says that Adam was with her, which is an interesting point to pay attention to. The passivity of Adam appears to be the first sin we see, and Eve’s adding to what God said, the second. Some have said that Adam was not taking care of the garden well, as the serpent was in it. Eve’s adding to what God said, however, makes me shudder, because I wonder about those of us that attempt to encourage others to obey God’s Word by discussing it, out loud, with others, or in writing. I am ever more thankful for Christ’s sacrifice and payment for our sins, as I doubt that any of us fully understand all of it well enough to teach it without committing sins, myself included. What concerns me about the teachings I have received and I have heard others received is many of the teachings seem to swing either too conservatively or too liberally in the discussion of Eve and her impact on women’s roles today.
Given that I know very few women who are so connected to God that they are 100% deeply comfortable in their own skin, I am bothered by teachers that portray all wives as “shadows” of their husbands and emphasize only one mold for us to fit into as women. This mold always looks similar, with only a few variances: a woman 100% fulfilled by washing dishes, doing laundry, preparing gourmet meals, sewing every hole, keeping the tidiest of homes, ironing our lavender scented sheets, all while focusing only on the achievements of our husbands and children.
Please do not misunderstand, I believe strongly that wives should care for their homes and families, but I also know that living life vicariously through others is very dangerous. Having said that, I have many friends who really do find fulfillment in being home-makers and I do not fault them for that -as a matter of fact, I applaud them for it and respect them like crazy. They are doing what God has called them to do. I actually home school my own children, deeply treasure my time with them, am thankful for my family and our intimate relationships, and still have worked part-time since having children. But because I am disabled, I cannot sew, or maintain a spotless home, even with help. I peeled and canned just two bushels of pears one summer with a friend and was in pain and unable to do much for nearly two weeks as a result. To hold myself to the perfect home maker status simply makes me feel like a failure, because it is physically impossible for me to measure up. There are many other women who are better moms because they invest in a God-given love of horses, or biking, or scrap booking, or other hobbies, or even part-time employment situations that are passions for them. God made every one of us with unique passions and talents. To deny the existence of those things within us is to deny Creation itself, in my opinion.
The other side of the coin is just as destructive. Focusing only on the texts in the Bible which speak to “mutual submission” and avoids the hierarchy of the family that God ordained may also fuel the divorce statistics. Few devout Christians (including therapists, psychologists, counselors, and pastors, based on my limited experience) seem to be really talented at conflict resolution. When men are more loving in conflict and women are more respectful, things tend to go better. Encouraging us to “fight for our rights,” flies in the face of Christ’s teaching. Being a woman of strength and dignity does not mean marriage is only about friendship and the domestic chores distributed 50-50. Denying the hierarchy established by God in families is also dangerous – there are literally no organizations I have ever heard of where mutual submission is not an end result of respect, love, and an attitude of servant hood for both people involved. For women, and men, we need to recognize that what is true for Christ is true for all – the least of us will be greatest.
Luke 9:46-46 (ESV) 46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (emphasis mine)
John 13:12-17 (ESV) 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (emphasis mine)
Jesus crossed many different cultural boundaries by loving and including children, by seeking out people of different ethnicity, and by including women in His teaching and His ministries. He turned the culture of His time upside down, and was the absolute best thing to happen to women. When Martha complained that her sister Mary, was not helping her prepare for all the guests, Jesus told her Mary had chosen the better thing by sitting at His feet and learning:
Luke 10:38-42 (NIV) 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Women are equal heirs in the kingdom of God. Yes, we are smaller in stature, and physically not as strong, but God views women as equal heirs and in God’s own image:
Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over 7all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
God created men and women as equal heirs to grace and in His own image, and while a woman’s role is not minimized; it is defined within marriage, just as a man’s is. Many men might relish trading the stress that comes with the “thistles,” “painful toil,” and “sweat,” of his work, to be under someone else’s protection, or perhaps they would not, but the point is that they have their consequence and we have ours. Who are we to argue with God? Bible commentator Matthew Henry said that Eve was, “made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
I realize that combining some aspects of both the egalitarian and complementarian viewpoints is possibly disturbing to some, but I am only sharing with you what is clearly in the Bible. God wants us to figure these things out for ourselves, with or without the labels. And yes, some marriages have some serious issues with regards to abuse. I do think, however, it is just wrong to cast judgment on another couple for how she and her husband “do marriage,” just because it might be different than ours (with the exception of abuse). We need to give each other the freedom to be how He created all of us, instead of worshiping some ideal, Christian, secular, or otherwise, in the hope it will bring us happiness; instead of finding fulfillment of our purpose in and relationship with, Christ.
This misplacement of our desire is in effect a form of idolatry, which even though we are lacking in awareness of this sin, it is still a sin. It also negatively impacts our relationships with ourselves, our husband, and our God. We miss an opportunity when we put our hope in anything but Christ. Sometimes the opportunities are huge:
1 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV) 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (emphasis mine)
I added the emphasis to point out that even our husbands who do not know the Lord can be saved by seeing Christ in us. The women from long ago put their hope in God, and we are (and have been, through the ages) equal heirs in God’s kingdom. We are not “less than” men, but physically smaller and of less muscle mass. Men are told to keep that in mind. God feels so strongly and tenderly toward His women that He basically tells His men that their prayers will not be responded to if they do not treat their wives with honor.
One of the problems we run into when seeing ourselves as “less than” is inadvertently creating oppressors out of those around us – regardless of what is actually true. I know there are men out there who are oppressive – we will talk about engaging in conflict with them in a later chapter. What I am speaking to now, however, is the average guy, just trying to do life with the girl he married. I wasted too much time causing conflict over minutia in an effort to “stand up for my rights,” with a man who would willingly protect them if I had given him the chance.
I did not realize my wrong thinking at the time, and would have been shocked had someone suggested my pursuits and hopes were actually idolatry in action. My dream and reality collided in one painful and memorable moment in time. My boss called me into his office and began discussing my recent decline in productivity. Married for just barely a year, the reality of sharing close quarters with another human had set in. That “twitter-pated” feeling where one is deliriously distracted and nearly unable to breathe properly at thought of the other…well, it had also vanished.
In my immaturity, I was unaware and unprepared for this next phase of love and was extremely disappointed. Having bought the lies of the culture, the rush of hormonally induced euphoria of infatuation had addicted me to love – and it had vanished. I had no idea that this was actually very normal for most people. As my superior looked at me and asked what was going on, I responded by bursting into tears, momentarily throwing professionalism out the window.
Then I was crying because I was crying (can you relate?! :)), shocked at the depth of my reaction. I blubbered, “I think I married the wrong person!” and proceeded to whine about how I no longer felt in love and I had no idea what to do.
Reacting like most men when faced with a sobbing woman, he did not know what to do, either. He did manage to hand me a tissue, tell me to chin up and work harder or something motivational, then stood up to encourage me to get out of his office. To both our relief, I promptly left.
While I would like to tell you that three years into my marriage I had this whole area figured out, that is simply not true. What I have discovered, and heard repeatedly from other women around the country is this:
The deeper my relationship with my God,
the better my marriage is.
When I wander away from our Lord, which I (like everyone) do from time to time, I immediately start looking (turning) toward my husband for affirmation, encouragement, and identity. It is during those times, thankfully more and more brief and further spaced apart, but present nonetheless, that my husband and I begin to struggle in our marriage. Unfortunately, he cannot deeply satisfy those things fully, as they need something supernatural. That alone is God’s to do.
Comfort permeates my soul when I remember that like Israel, God’s children are in a constant state of turning and returning. The Bible is populated with multiple stories, both true and analogous, painting the picture of God’s pursuit. Consider Hosea 6 (ESV):
1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2 “He will revive us after two days ; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. 3 “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
4What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early. 5Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
8Gilead is a city of wrongdoers, Tracked with bloody footprints. 9 And as raiders wait for a man, So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem; Surely they have committed crime. 10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s harlotry is there, Israel has defiled itself. 11Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you, When I restore the fortunes of My people.
In raising my children, I focus on helping them understand their identity in Christ. Knowing Who He is and what He did matters first, then understanding who I am now as a result of my beliefs and relationship with God makes all the difference in the world. We then can live this life for the Audience of One – whose opinion is truly the only one that matters. We must continually come back to this Truth, otherwise we (like Eve) are easily deceived by the enemy.
How about you?
What dreams did/do you have for your marriage?
How have they played out?
Where are you now? If you had to describe the “state of your marriage, what would it be?”
Has your desire been more for your husband instead of God? Have you “turned” toward your husband instead of God?
Has this desire impacted you or your relationships? How this impacted your relationship with God?
Have you had times where your relationship with God took care of every need? What were those times? If you are not in one now, why is that? What do you need to do to return?
Prayerfully confess any misplaced desires to our Lord. Ask Him for help in setting your desires and hopes in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Trust and know He forgives you completely. If you have trouble doing this, ask Him for help with that.
Dare 1: Ask God to reveal to you how the culture has influenced you and shine His light of Truth into your life. Be open to the media influences around you, and choose more wisely what you allow into your eyes, ears, and heart. Ask God to make Psalm 119:11 part of your daily time with Him, hiding His Word (the Bible) in your heart that you might not sin against Him. The Appendix of this book will have a section on great Scriptures to memorize and weave into the fabric of your being. If you are reading the book as part of our course, Daughters of Sarah®, the “Steps of Faith” Scriptures are a great place to start.
Dare 2: Apologize to God and your husband for sinning against them, as these offenses occur during the day – don’t wait! Apology should be a normal part of your relationship interactions with others, unless you are struggling with pride. Spend some time in prayer, confessing and asking God to help you “do the things you did at first” in your marriage. Know He forgives you. If you did not do this last week, write your husband a short note, apologizing for not being a better friend. Tell him you are sorry you have sinned against him, and that you want to do better. Ask him to forgive you. Put the note on the steering wheel of his car.
A great apology typically begins with, “I’m so sorry I…” and speaks to the impact your behavior may have had on him. For example, “I’m so sorry I came across that way to you, I can tell I’ve upset you and I’m really sorry about that,” is different than, “I’m so sorry you don’t understand what I said.”
Empathize with the person – “That must have made you feel …”
Set an expectation for change – “I’ll not do that again.”
Ask for forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?”
Dare 3: Keep adding to the “Our Favorite Memories” list on your refrigerator for your family, with a special section titled, “Just The Two of Us.” Add current things you are doing that are fun.
- Add a few details about something the two of you did together when dating or during your marriage that was fun for both of you.
- Send your husband a brief email or text every few days, or a note on his steering wheel, letting him know you were thinking about “the time we went … “and how much fun you had.
- If you have the chance to dialogue, ask him what his favorite part of that trip/event was and why it was his favorite.
- Listen and laugh and enjoy.
- If you are feeling brave, invite him to do the same thing soon – and make it happen.
- Get creative – focus on old happy memories, creating new ones, and adding to the favorite memories on the refrigerator!
Dare 4: Continue the practice of “silence” to your communication repertoire – and do not take offense at the suggestion. We will discuss this in detail in a couple upcoming chapters. Catch your tongue before it lets unwholesome talk come out of your mouth and instead only speak that which is edifying (building up) toward others by STOPPING these communication behaviors that if pervasive, have the power to destroy your marriage:
- Criticism (pointing out another’s mistakes or flaws)
- Contempt (disrespect, disgust, etc., usually via tone and facial expressions – eye roll, sarcasm, pursed lips, scowl, etc. when communicating)
- Defensiveness (keeping a list of wrongs such that when asked a question, you feel attacked and respond by defending yourself)
- Stonewalling (refusing to engage in communication verbally or non-verbally with your husband when he wants to talk – many men do this, but women do also when they have given up on the relationship).
Dare 5: Choose daily to be interested in your husband’s world, regardless of whether or not he is interested in yours. This means the following:
- Become a student of the man you married, by asking him, “What can I pray for you about today?”
- Follow up at the end of the day and ask him how things went when you know about it.
- Be a respectful listener when he is speaking, and ask him questions, encouraging him to open up about himself by:
- Facing him when he is speaking to you
- Making eye contact with him when he is speaking
- Stopping what you are doing when he is speaking
- NOT interrupting him when he speaks – and correcting your children if they do, then asking him to continue
- Nodding your head with interest as he shares
- Asking questions during the conversation that can NOT be answered with “yes” or “no” but are “open ended” in nature
- NOT offering advice unless asked, but instead empathizing with his struggles if he shares them, ie: “Honey, that has got to be hard for you. I’ll certainly pray about that situation.”
- NOT offering an opinion on what he shares unless it is supportive or encouraging to him.
Dare 6: Pay a compliment about his character when listening to him, ie: “Dave, you are really good at running meetings! I’m amazed you got everyone through the whole issue in less than two hours!”
You may need to actively choose to NOT get discouraged if he does not want to talk with you, displays poor listening skills toward you, or does not want to participate. Do what you can, listen to God – His advice trumps mine always!
Remember that discouragement is steeped in lies – it’s one of the calling cards of that other guy. Yes, we will get to the parts where you get to ask him for something. We are not going to start there, however, as many of us will benefit from some pre-work… HANG ON FOR THAT – most of what wives have tried in the past simply does not work. We know what does, but we need to work up to it. Try what we are suggesting – you are laying the groundwork for what comes later. Are you ready to try something different?
As you read through the previous dares, did any of them seem extra hard to you? Are they things you just need to do more of?
If you are doing this with a small group, what do you need prayer for? Write out your prayer requests here, and then share them with your group’s members when you meet:
Today, let us know any additional “lies” you believed that we don’t have listed, or comment about how “lies” have impacted your marriage. We won’t dwell on the enemy much through the study, but we have fallen prey to many of his deceptions. Shining the Light of Truth on these things brings freedom and life abundant.
So what about you? What is your favorite positive marriage memory? How have you been doing with the dares so far? Feel free to comment on anything! Got questions? Ask away! :)
Love to you,
 Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18
 1 Peter 7 (ESV) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
 Henry, Matthew, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 1, Fleming Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, p. 20, n.d.
 Eph 5:5 (NIV) For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
 Most experts tell us there are three stages of love: 1) Infatuation, 2) Conflict, and 3) Harvest.
 Proverbs 10:19 (NIV) When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
 Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
 Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” because these kinds of negativity can be deadly to a marriage. Gottman,pg 27.