Actually Becoming The Happy Wife of A Human Husband

 

The title of this blog came from an oft-repeated threat to write a book called “How To Be The Happy Wife Of A Human Husband”. I began making that threat after it dawned on me that it’s typical to vent about a husband’s failings while excusing our own weaknesses. This behavior is not limited to the husband/wife sphere, either — we all do it.

I got married later in life, so there were lots of years with human room mates. Being the oldest of 5 meant my family life was pretty full of humans, too. Four human children have become adults who make their own choices — choices I do not control. (In all honesty, I never had the power to control their choices.)

On top of the aggravation of humans in my house, humans share the road with me as I drive and they post irritating stuff on social media. I go to church with humans. Humans all around, and they all act human. How do we stay “happy” when there are all these humans bothering us?

I am human, too. Maybe this blog should be called “Happy Human Among Human Humans” or something similar.

The thing is, we all cut ourselves some slack and think our own aggravating qualities are not so bad. There is deception in our hearts, according to Proverbs 21:2. We all think we are right, or we have good reasons for whatever wrong we do.

I am blind to my own faults — a good example is the piles of “stuff” I plan on sorting someday. I have many piles of stuff. One of Dave’s first gifts to me as a new wife was a blue basket to put my piles of stuff in. One basket, however large, won’t hold all my procrastination piles. Did his helpfulness change my pile habit? A little, but they are still there in the corners of my life because they don’t bother me like they bother him.

Here’s the thing — he gives me grace about my pile habit. Should I give him grace about his irritating habits? Yes, because not only does Dave give me grace, but God forgives me for far more serious sins than procrastination. When I realize all I am forgiven for, the natural response is thankfulness followed by forgiving others. It’s like that parable of the servant in Matthew 18 — we need our eyes opened to how much we have been forgiven.

When I choose to forgive as God has forgiven me, I am free to be happy with imperfect things and people. I can be a happy wife of a human husband, or a happy co-worker who works with humans, or whatever life throws at me.

Our daily lives are where our theology is tested. Truth is always true, but we don’t always believe the truth and it shows. My reactions to the people around me show me what I actually believe. This is humbling because I often have a disconnect between what I “believe” and how I react.

Recognizing my consistent failures helps me see myself accurately — I am human. I fail. Because I am human and I fail, I have to accept others as human failures just like me but our failures cost us more than we like to think about.

Jesus points out in his famous Sermon on the Mount that our natural tendencies have horrible results if we let them grow to fruition. Sibling rivalry, for instance, is the same basic attitude as murder. That’s harsh! But it’s true and we all do it.

We all need forgiveness, we all need grace, we all need the good news that God loves us enough to do something about the condition of our hearts. The cost of my self-centered insistence on my own way was death. Not death as an arbitrary punishment by an egotistical deity but death because it’s the natural consequence of my choices.

Jesus chose to leave his position as God and become human — like us — so that he could be a substitute for us and take that consequence on himself. I don’t understand how that all worked, but this changed everything. Do some research on the historical evidence for Jesus and the resurrection and it’s hard to ignore.

So what do we have? A resurrected Savior who provides forgiveness for me. He gives grace, so I can extend that forgiveness to the human who shares my life. That makes me a happy wife of a human husband.

 

 

 

 

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The Glory of The Mundane

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Most of the spiritual giants in God’s kingdom are anonymous. It’s interesting to see who is named in the great “faith” chapter of Hebrews 11 and look at their stories — stories that are only a few highlights of countless days. What do we know of their daily grind of a life? Not much, but we see the result of their many small choices in the glimpses that Scripture provides.

That chapter ends with mention of a host of those who lived their life in faith, knowing that the end of their story was “not yet”. It reminds me of the brothers and sisters in Christ who are even now experiencing torture and death for the Gospel.

I think that the most amazing example of a life lived primarily in the mundane is Jesus. Christmas is a time of celebration of His birth, but it’s hard to imagine just how mundane that actually was. What do we know about His daily life on earth? Not much, but there would have had to be things like this:

  • Keeping the baby Jesus clean, warm & fed — that’s lots of poopy diapers and baby spitup and the rest of infant care. The God who created the universe needed someone to change His diapers. Think about how far a step downward that is.
  • Childhood — no temper tantrums but still daily meals and the cleanup involved. Preparation of daily meals without electricity, too. Most of the day was likely spent in community, talking and working.
  • Early adulthood — I cannot imagine there were not chores of some sort. Floors need to be swept, the meal thing never goes away, dishes and laundry still happen. There is no mention of servants for this class of Jewish society.
  • Ministry years — His years of ministry, short ones, were spent walking places as far as I can tell. Lots of unexciting stuff mixed in with the teaching, and He often used what was happening around them to illustrate the lessons. God uses stuff we understand to help us understand new concepts.
  • Integrated into the Jewish home & community would be regular religious celebrations, teaching times for the family to focus on God and His Word. All the Feasts, the Sabbath, and more would be part of life’s regularity.

How many of those days do we know about? Not many. All we know is the relatively few times things were recorded. In today’s social media tech world, daily moments are recorded a lot, but in that time, it just happened. We see the fruit of the harvest, but we miss the mundane reality of seeds planted and organic growth that takes time.

At Christmas, I am reminded that God values the mundane and partakes in it through His Incarnation. He takes the ordinary, physical reality of daily life and blesses it with His presence in every aspect. It takes time to see the harvest, but it will come.

I had a blessing today, when my daughter posted about washing the dishes. It was encouraging to see some of the fruit that comes from just doing what comes next by the grace of God. It’s a privilege to have lived long enough to see a small part of what He has been doing all the time.

Two Things I Thought I Knew Before I Got Married

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I got married two days after my thirtieth birthday. We celebrated our thirty-second anniversary last May. My daughter asked me what advice I’d give young wives and I had to think & pray about it because it has been a long time since I was a young wife. I now have been married longer than I was single — something I could not imagine being true in my mid-twenties.

I came into marriage with a lot of sound and unsound Biblical teaching along with emotional baggage and unresolved issues. I had theory, but not practice (except in the experience of those who gave advice). I had expectations based on all the books, movies, and music I’d been exposed to. And I was like every other new spouse in that regard. We all come into marriage unprepared for the reality at some level because it is a new thing.

Nothing Will Be Like You Thought It Would Be

At least, not after the first “dream come true” moments when you think your fantasy has actually become real. That organized house, perfect pair of jeans, and every relationship you might have will be different after you live with them a while. I was reminded of this recently by a 9-year-old who confided, “I thought when my dad told me he would have full custody that everything would change, but really it didn’t much.” Her life has had a lot of changes and this one will be good, but it will not be problem-free.

Getting married does not mean “happily ever after” any more than getting to live with your most stable parent means everything will change. But living with the most stable parent is pretty good when you are nine. A stable home is a good thing at any age even when it isn’t like what you thought it would be. Any kind of home can become something good when God is finished with the people who live there. This is something I thought I understood, but the in-your-face dynamics of marriage and parenthood took that understanding deeper.

Things in God’s Hand are Not Wasted

I think the most important thing to remember about marriage is the same thing that is priority in singleness: God is with us. He is with us in the mundane daily tasks that nobody sees. He is with us in the spotlight of high-stress situations. He promises that all the things..ALL of them…are not wasted (Romans 8) but we have no promise that things will be what we planned.

Some heartbreaking things can happen. Discouragement and despair can cloud our vision until we can’t see any hope at all. Is God still working? Yes. Is He still with us? Yes. The entire Bible is the story of His redemptive love for broken, sinful, rebellious individuals. The fact that you are here, reading these words, means that He is giving you another chance to respond to Him.

Most of life is not made up of big things. Life is little things, one after another, day after day. The choices we make in the little things don’t always seem very important. Much of the time, God is the only one who knows what kind of sacrifice it is to keep your mouth shut or pick up that sock on the floor. It’s a sacrifice to stop what I am doing and pay attention to someone who wants to talk. But those are the times I am picking up my cross and following Jesus.

As we do that, the hidden choices pile up. The mundane things are not wasted. It won’t be like you thought it would be, but it will be better than you could imagine eventually.

Celibacy and Chastity Are Not Dirty Words

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It’s been interesting to see the debates on the recent marriage decision by the US Supreme Court. I’m not going to get into the fray by saying my thoughts on that decision because it will sidetrack from one issue that is often revealed: for some reason, the idea of controlling one’s sexual appetite is seen as a bad idea.

Most of the time I am told that it is wrong to deny your feelings, that people have the right to do whatever their inclination is sexually. If it feels good to someone, they should do it (whatever “it” is) and not repress themselves.

The problem is that we see the benefit of controlling one’s appetite in other areas. People who control their appetite for unhealthy food reap the benefit of improved nutrition. Those who control their appetite for laziness don’t have soft puffy bodies. Those who control their appetite for mind-numbing media tend to be more intelligent.

The professional dancer says “no” to a lot of things in order to become proficient at dance. Those Olympic athletes have denied themselves many enjoyable moments in order to compete at the highest level. If you are going to be in top physical shape, you have to control various appetites, saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to something better.

Celibates have said “no” to sexual activity in order to say “yes” to something they deem better. People practicing chastity say “no” to sexual behavior outside marriage in order to deepen and strengthen the bond of that marriage. 

There are many people who are chaste or celibate for reasons that are not religious. Some are interested in avoiding sexually transmitted disease: a topic that should be more visible in our sexualized culture. Others have been so scarred by the past they try to avoid more trauma. Occasionally there isn’t much sexual appetite to begin with because what is happening in your body affects desire.

Controlling what you feed your sexual appetite begins with the thought process. Chastity and celibacy involve more than a physical appetite. Sexuality begins in the emotions and thoughts of a person, which is why porn can be so devastating since it creates habits rewarded by pleasure. But if the porn really satisfied, the same level of porn would be enough to satisfy again. We don’t see this in the porn industry — instead there is increasing demand for different types of porn and deeper degradation.

Every person involved in the porn industry is a person whom Jesus came to seek and to save, which is easy to forget sometimes. Every person who is focused on feeding their appetite for whatever triggers pleasure is a person who needs to see that the pleasure is fleeting.

Pleasure isn’t a problem unless it is sought at the expense of the permanent.

Saying “no” to the future in order to say “yes” to something that will only last a short time is like eating the seeds instead of planting them for a harvest of many more. Jesus used the example of a seed needing to die in order to produce many more seeds, and that principle applies to our lives in many ways.

Biblical Christianity says “yes” to Jesus, who chose to say “no” to all that He had as deity so that we could be alive in Him. He chose to leave all the privilege of being God and become a fertilized egg in the womb, be born and grow into limited manhood, and die a shameful death on the cross for the simple reason that He loves us. His disciples saw Him die, were terrified of dying themselves, and then something changed.

Those who knew Jesus was dead and were hiding from the authorities suddenly came out in public insisting that Jesus was alive. Many followers of Jesus were beaten, arrested, and killed. They died unafraid, knowing that the God who overcame death would do all He promised and that this life was not the end of life.

We see people die for what they believe to be true all the time. But these Jesus followers would be dying for what they knew was a hoax — if it was a scam put on by the disciples they would be the first group in history willing to die unanimously to perpetrate a story they made up. Why would they say “no” to life and “yes” to that?

They said “no” to the temporary and “yes” to the eternal.

Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This includes all our appetites, in every area of life, married or single. It doesn’t necessarily mean those appetites are bad, but it does mean those appetites are recognized as temporary.

When you think about it, people who are chaste or celibate are saying “no” to a temporary sexual urge so they can say “yes” to something that lasts longer and has more value.

How To Find Contentment In The Real World

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I think one of the craziest things about our culture is marketing. This pervasive industry is built on the goal of destroying contentment — because if you are content with what you have, you aren’t going to be buying anything.

That clickbait title is designed to make you discontented with your current level of knowledge. People analyze titles to see which ones generate the most traffic, and try to utilize the wording that gets results. Who doesn’t want to see what brought tears to the eyes and made the jaw drop in amazement? Why not see what we are missing?

All the magazines, most of the blogs, and every piece of advertising we are exposed to is designed to make us discontent with our current state so that we enter the sales funnel. That funnel may begin with getting on an email list or liking a facebook page, but the idea is to generate income eventually.

The problem isn’t in people wanting to be paid for what they provide, but in the discontent generated to make us dissatisfied with what we have so that we get something new. This new thing could be a purchased product, an experienced activity, or a new level in a relationship. But it doesn’t keep us satisfied — it doesn’t bring the lasting contentment we think is being offered.

I am terrible at this, because it is easy for me to surf for fun eye candy instead of taking care of what already is in my life. Amazon knows how often I look at that Chromebook and will drop the price like a dangling worm on a hook. Etsy is like the Molasses Swamp in Candyland, sucking me in for many turns while I look at removable tiles to update my backsplash. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Why not take an honest look at what we already have? In Christ, we have more than we realize: Philippians 4 — …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Notice some things here: 

  • Contentment is a learning process
  • There are things like being brought low and facing hunger in the contentment category
  • The famous “I can do all things” verse is in context of learning to be content in any situation

Hebrews 13 — Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Thoughts to ponder:

  • Love of money, not money itself, is the potential problem
  • What we have is Jesus and He will never leave or forsake us

1 Timothy 6 — But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Perspective:

  • You are not going to take it with you
  • If you have something you could eat (not if you like it) and something to cover your body, that’s enough

I have been thinking about the food/clothing thing a lot lately. When the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, they had God’s presence guiding them day and night. When they were hungry, God gave them manna (which means, “what is it?”) and told them not to stockpile unless directed to do so. Their clothing and shoes never wore out, so they never needed a new wardrobe. Later on, He brought them to a land of plenty, with many things to eat and many riches. He warned them that it would be easy to get sidetracked by all the stuff they could accumulate.

Many years later, Jesus would tell a group of people on a hillside that there was more to life than food and clothing: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6)

When I was a young believer, I trusted God to dress me. I knew I didn’t have a good handle on what would be appropriate clothing, so I used these verses as a challenge to trust His provision. He was really good about providing many things to wear, and things to eat, over the years. I have learned that there are seasons in contentment. Sometimes I have had very little, but most of the time I have more than I realize.

I am still being challenged to trust His provision, but when I put my list of wants in His hands, it’s been interesting to see how He provides. For example, I have been eyeing some very cool market baskets made in Africa for a few years but never could justify spending the money. At the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store I found one for $3 and gleefully bought it with thanksgiving in my heart. It’s a reminder to me that I don’t need to buy stuff immediately — and that it’s a good idea to wait on God’s provision.

The illustration that continually reminds me of contentment is the way my hand feels when I hold it out the window as I drive. If my hand is relaxed, it feels full. If I try to grasp it, there’s nothing to hold. I see contentment as relaxing my hand so that God can fill it with the temporary things that are best for me at the moment. These things will change like the wind and they will feel full of promise. If I relax my grasp, I enjoy the moment. If I try to hold on, my hand is empty.

Having a Bad Day

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When my kids were younger, one of the books I loved to read to them was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. This classic book chronicles one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, and gives hope that there are days like that, no matter who you are or where you live.

It’s easy to forget that everyone has days like that, even kids.

When I was starting seventh grade, my dad left the family. We moved to a different house, I began attending a new school, and pretty much every day was a bad day. I don’t recall many things, but I do remember how my Math teacher was named Mrs. Sunshine (really!) and that was my last class of the day and I didn’t like math to begin with. I would end up in the counselor’s office regularly instead of being in class, but I had no words for why I was having a bad day.

Children often do not have words to describe what is happening but the right book often speaks to their heart. That difficult year I discovered “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo; a massive tome of tragedy bearing little resemblance to the Disney movie. I don’t remember much about the book, but I devoured it — the desperation of the mother who lost her child to the gypsies, the degenerate church leaders, the deformed bell ringer who loved the gypsy girl who was tortured and eventually hung. It took me out of myself and gave me a bigger perspective on life.

Bad days are not measured by the type of things going wrong, they are measured by the size of your world.

This is why a child can have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when they are in a loving environment where they are safe and sheltered and fed. Their world is small because they have no experience outside their own. This is why Job finally realized his string of bad days paled in the presence of the Creator who loved him.

Job had his perspective on life expanded to the max.

Tears and frustrations are useless if we fail to see what Job saw and realize that dark days and nights are part of life, but they do not define the limits of our experience. I think one of the most important things to learn from our dark times is compassion for those who cannot yet see outside the circle of their perspective.

About the Changes on this Site

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My daughter, Beth, recently asked if she could take over the management of my blog and help me get it to a point of helpfulness. As she is in the trenches of young motherhood, she sees a great need for encouragement from other women who have experienced this season.

I agreed, because it makes sense to do what will meet a need. We know many women in various seasons of life, and plan to ask them to share their perspective here. This means that The Happy Wife of a Human Husband won’t only be about marriage, but that is okay because marriage is only one facet of the jewel that God is in the process of crafting — you.

I also agreed because I find it difficult to write unless I have a reason to write. I talk all the time because I have relationships with others. There are many words used in listening, encouraging, teaching, and sharing. These words rarely get written down but have value because they serve one purpose of communication: we share, we connect, we realize we are not alone.

Writing our stories in a concrete form shares the memories of what God has done in our lives during one of the many seasons of life. The written word can be read again, and someone who hasn’t met us yet can read the story shared, connect with what is said, and realize that they also are not alone.

There will be a new, regular feature on this site: guest posts from friends who have been willing to write what God has done in their life during one of the many seasons of womanhood. I hope you will be encouraged.