Hey Young Wife. Yeah, you. I have a secret for you. I have some information that no one let you in on. It’s not brand new information, certainly, but it’s not something that a lot of us are taught. It’s called Respect and it comes straight from the Bible. Ephesians 5:33* to be exact.
Let me rewind for a minute because you probably think I need to give myself some credibility. And I would agree.
I have been married almost 3 years. And when I started working on Respect, I was a Young Wife (like I’m SOO experienced now, right? – the two kids kind of change my definition of myself, but that’s for later). Before my husband and I got married, a book was recommended to me by my father, a pastor. He said that he hadn’t read it from cover to cover, but that he had sat in on several talks about it and read a number of excerpts. It’s called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and it is based on the passage from Ephesians that I referenced above. At the same time, my husband and I were listening to a sermon series that he had found years before on how to improve marriage by looking through the Song of Solomon.
What I found immediately interesting is this: while Love and Respect showed that both the husband and the wife have a distinct and important role, the sermon series very much focused on what husbands were missing in their marriages (this is not the Song of Solomon’s fault, as I have read it many times and see nothing but love and respect represented, but rather the lack of something from the sermon series).
These things got me really thinking. After my husband read the book, he and I discussed at length the information from the book. He liked the practical applications. But he was frankly burned out by his whole life hearing how husbands needed to step it up. And that was it. That was going to make a marriage better.
That got me REALLY thinking. I mean my husband is truly one of the most gracious, patient, loving, generous, humble, and godly men I have ever known. And not just in our marriage; he treats everyone this way. So if he communicates to me that this to him doesn’t make a whole marriage, then I know enough to listen.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? By preaching at men (and seriously, the resources for men on the subject seem astronomical while the resources to women seem lacking), what women hear from our culture and hear from our churches tend not to be all that different.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know there are churches out there beating submission into their wives and telling them to become doormats. And I’m not talking about that either.
What I am talking about is my half of the equation – the respect portion. When I read that book, it spoke to me. It was like God grabbed me by the face and said, “My child, I have given this to you. Now use it.”
It was the scripture passage we had read at our wedding. And we emphasized the part about love and respect – both of us working together. My husband washed my feet, as Jesus did for the disciples and said that he was willing to lay down his life for me, just as Christ did for His bride.
So I started working on respecting my husband. But I’ll be really honest when I say that I had a lot of negative influences pulling me in other directions. Little things like things I’ve seen on TV, my own insecurities, and more. And there were big things too, like that little voice that said I shouldn’t have to make an effort if he wasn’t going to make an effort.
I remember doing some online shopping and wanted to find a book for us to do together. As I was looking through options, I found this devotional, a 40 day journey for women on respect called The Respect Dare. It literally fell into my lap as things tend to do on Amazon. And I thought to myself that maybe this was the answer to so many quiet prayers where I was looking for mature, Christian women to speak about their marriages. I had gotten married before all of my friends and was sort of that go-to lady on beginning-of-marriage questions. And that’s great. But I didn’t have anyone walking just ahead of me to give me a hand, and I was looking. We were living in a new place, and hadn’t found a church home yet. It was a hard time. So I wanted to do this and really see more about this respect stuff.
And let me tell you – this was exactly what I needed. While I will recommend Love and Respect to any couple looking for something to do together, I always follow that up with “Hey, wife, check out this AMAZING resource for just you afterwards.” Because it’s real. It’s marriage. It’s not always neat and tidy. And it’s not easy. It’s work. And a choice. And a calling.
I know I’ve rambled for way too long here, but here is the heart of my lesson – young women – wives and those preparing themselves for marriage – are missing this part of their preparations. I can’t say that this is true of EVERYONE but typically if you are to pick up a book on marriage, you are already at the point where you are having decently serious problems, or you are about to have a huge change in your life – i.e. having babies, serious illness, job loss, etc. And in how our marriage timelines tend to be changing these days, I just don’t think we are doing justice to our marriages by waiting.
I started this by specifically calling to young wives – those who are engaged, just married, and any time up until having your first child. THIS IS PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE. It’s like taking a vitamin every day. It’s like eating healthy. It’s like exercising. Learning HOW to respect your husband in the earliest stages of marriage may be one of the most important steps for your marriage that you can ever make. I believe this has whole-heartedly changed things in my marriage – and for the better.
What respect is not is another tool for manipulating your husband. It is not something that you put on or do just enough to get him to do what you want. No, it’s a form of worship to the Lord who brought you together and calls you to be this kind of wife. You may not see a change in your husband at all. But I assure you, just as the Lord is working in your heart, He is working in the heart of your husband.
And I know that many couples are married for a more substantial chunk of time before they have kids today. Trust me, I know the looks I get when people ask how long my husband and I have been married and they learn we have (almost) 2 kids in 3 years of marriage. We are not normal. That is why it is imperative to take steps in your marriage. As this is a new trend, there aren’t a lot of people talking about it. Not in that I-need-to-learn-about-this kind of way. People blog about it all the time – as kind of an extended honeymoon phase. New jobs. New cars. New place to live. It’s all very exciting. Until it gets hard. Then what?
I pray and encourage so many of my friends who are getting married to work on this. I feel that God has placed a special desire in my heart to encourage other young wives as I blaze the trail forward – getting married first, having babies first, and who knows what other firsts.
I know that everyone’s journey looks different. But I am certain that God’s truth on respecting our husbands is so important for building a solid foundation in our marriages. For learning early and young how to be married to someone who is so different than us. And how to build a life with that man by letting him lead because that’s what God called him to do.
*Ephesians 5:33 (emphasis mine)
33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.