The other morning I woke up early to spend some time in prayer. It was an ordinary morning and I began talking to God in my ordinary way. A few minutes into it, however, the conversation took an unexpected turn. It went something like this:
Me: “Lord, be with Matt today. Help him to have a productive day, to seek your will in his decisions, and to be surrounded by your grace. Give him wisdom to do his job, strength to tackle his responsibilities, and a greater desire to serve you.”
God: “Yes, child, he is a good man, isn’t he?”
Me: “Yes, Lord. Thank you for him and his love for me. And Lord, help me to be a good wife to him, a good helpmeet, and encourager.”
God: “You know? You don’t always treat him with the honor and respect that you should.”
God: “Yes, daughter. Sometimes you talk to him as if he was your child, not your husband.”
Me: “Wait, what? I was just praying that he has a good day and…”
God: “Listen. You know the times you ask him to fold the laundry while he watches that show and he forgets? You know how you put your hands on your hips and chastise him? He is your husband, child, not your son. That is not very respectful.”
Me: “But, but he… but I… but...”
God: “You know the times when he eats a donut for breakfast and you roll your eyes at him? Do you think that is honoring to him?”
Me: “No, Lord. I understand.”
God: “I’m not finished. Sometimes you tell him what to do as if you knew best, criticize his choices as if he was not very intelligent, belittle his opinions as if yours were the only valid ones. Would you treat a stranger in this way?”
Me: “No, Lord.”
God: “Then honor your husband. Respect him as you should. Be a wife who serves, who encourages, who forgives. Speak only praises of him before others. Make your home a place to where he wants return to every night. A safe haven from the pressures of his day. Treat him like the blessing and the treasure he is in your life. Don’t forget.”
Me: “Yes, Lord. Thank you for being so gentle in your rebuking.”
I walked away from this conversation changed and I was reminded of what I vowed to do almost thirteen years ago before all those friends and family members.
We said for richer of for poorer and we have survived times of plenty and through times of need.
We said in sickness and in health and we have made it through less than healthy times.
We said for better or worse and we have navigated tougher than tough times right to the other side.
But we also vowed to honor and respect and I guess I thought that honor only meant to be faithful and respect only meant not to call each other ugly names when we argue. And it is that...but it is also much more.
To honor means to deeply value. It means to appreciate the tremendous contribution he makes to my life, to our children, and to our family by the kind of husband, father, and leader he is. Honor means to focus on what he brings, not on what he lacks. It means to be keenly aware of what his absence would mean so I can cherish every day of his presence.
And to respect means to be considerate of. It means to extend him the same grace to err, to fail, and to be flawed as I would want extended to me. It means to be gentle, to be kind, and to generally treat him with the deference with which I would treat a friend.
But I'm finding that it is in the daily living, in the every day navigating of life together, that honor and respect are most important but most difficult to achieve because when you live with someone you can find a million opportunities to be aggravated by them and with them.
Like a leaky faucet, I can wear my husband down with my ongoing criticism, nagging, and contempt. And who can stand that for very long? He may not leave me because he is a man of his word, but what kind of marriage would that be? What kind of example would I be for my daughter?
And it is the continuous wear and tear of a relationship, the small, annoying, seemingly insignificant disagreements, “fussing” my father-in-law calls it, which can destroy a relationship little by little if not handled properly.
No wonder wise Solomon once wrote how it is better to live in the corner of an attic than in a lovely home with a quarrelsome wife!
I asked the Lord to help me remember that, while I criticize Matt, I am far, far from perfect. I asked him to give me patience and humility, wisdom and humility, grace and humility to pray daily a version of the serenity prayer for my marriage that goes like this:
Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things about Matt I cannot change, the strength to change the things about ME that I can, and the wisdom to show honor and respect to my husband in every interaction that we have.