I have a confession.
I am not a fun person to be married to.
I am prideful and selfish and just a big, fat sinner. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware I was a sinner as a single person. I had my struggles and my battles, but I will tell you something that I was not prepared for. Nothing makes you more aware of your sin than marriage.
Right before I got married, an old mentor from back home texted me some wisdom. In this, she wrote, “Marriage done well leaves you nowhere to hide.” I didn’t completely understand this, but I was so affected by it, I put it in my vows. Boy, do I get it now! In marriage, you are no longer alone for the majority of your down time. You are constantly with this person who knows you better than anyone else and when your sin nature flares up, there’s always someone there to witness it.
I wrote a post a while ago about how prayer marks one of the differences between accountability and nagging. If you aren’t praying your husband, you have no right to try and challenge his behavior. In the past seven months, God has been taking me on an amazing (and HARD) journey to be a good wife. I know seven months isn’t very long to be married, and I look forward to the next 60-70 years, but seven months feels like an eternity when you try to do it by yourself.
In the times that I am submitted to God in my marriage, a wonderful sweetness abounds. My husband is superman and I am the most blessed woman in the world. On the days I don’t, I wonder how we’ll make it through.
My sin nature makes an appearance on a regular basis and my surrender to God determines how it is dealt with (and its frequency). I tell you, it’s usually the dumbest things, too. We all know them. He didn’t do the dishes when he said he would, he left his wet towel on the floor again, and my latest favorite: he stays up too late when I want us to go to bed at the same time.
I am going to deliver some hard truth to y’all. Leaving a wet towel on the floor is not a character flaw.
I’m not saying Nick is perfect. He has plenty of his own sin, like the rest of us. But here’s today’s lesson: your spouse’s struggles are between them and God.
I’m not saying there’s no vulnerability or accountability. I’m saying that at the end of the day, you can be there for them and encourage them and occasionally challenge them but you do not have the power (or responsibility) to change them. Only God does. And when it comes to the things we nag our spouses about, we need to start asking ourselves if it really is sin or just a pet peeve.
As a spouse, we need to choose our battles carefully. If we don’t, our whole marriage will be a war. So we need to save our battles for real sin.
Here’s a battle God helped me to put away:
I like cleanliness and organization, and since I work from home, I really like the apartment to be clean at all times. If it’s dirty, I tend to get distracted by it during the work day. Because Nick is a 25-year-old man who’s been single the last 24 and a half years, he’s not very good at putting away his laundry. When he doesn’t put away the clean laundry, a pile of dirty clothes ends up in a corner on the floor. It drives me crazy. I would nag him over and over to put away his clean clothes and then to keep his dirty clothes in the laundry basket. He would feel defensive and like he wasn’t good enough because all I’d do is start attacking him the moment he got home from work.
One day, I got so fed up that I put them all away myself. It took about three minutes. In my anger and bitterness, I complained to God and prayed that he would make Nick care more about the laundry.
Three things hit me.
Number one, I walk boldly into the throne room of the omnipotent Creator of the universe (Heb. 4:16) and I’m asking him to get my husband to do laundry?? If I’m going to pray for my husband, I need to be strategic. I need to be praying for his influence and wisdom, for peace and compassion. The kingdom isn’t exactly getting built by folded laundry.
Number two, the dirty clothes pile in the corner is not his sin. It’s mine. Not putting away clothes is not a sin against God, it’s my own pet peeve. My irritation at this has led to bitterness, anger, and nagging. I’ve let my personal preference cause me to sin against Nick. Remember those fun little verses in Proverbs that tells women not to nag? It’s better to live with a constant dripping noise or on the roof or IN THE DESERT, than with a nagging wife. Yeah. Dang.
According to Philippians 2:14-15, not complaining is what makes us shine as different in a world where complaining comes all too naturally. Dress it up how you like but nagging is complaining.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.
Number three, it took me three minutes to do! If Nick does laundry every two weeks, I’m spending AT MOST about an hour A YEAR folding his laundry. That’s nothing. If I’m the only one it bothers, I can certainly spare that kind of time.
So I decided from then on, I would fold his clean clothes and put them away. Just like that, I stopped nagging him. Not only that, I stopped feeling like I needed to. I started (still a work-in-progress) lifting up my personal irritations and pet peeves to God and He gives me peace. Ephesians 4:29-32 teaches us how to treat others.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If I am supposed to do this for the stranger next to me, how much more can I do for my own husband? I need to show him grace and love by putting away my bitterness and anger.
Am I not called to forgive others as I have been forgiven? Does that not include my husband?
You may say, “Does this person have no responsibilities then?? Do I have to start doing everything?”
Remember that 1 Peter 3:1-2 tells us how we can make the greatest impact.
Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of their lives.
They still have responsibilities. But like I said, the things they struggle with are between them and God. Our first duty in marriage is to be a blessing to our spouse. Days will come where you will call out sin in one another, but it is so the other can go to God to address it. Most days, you will be called to win them over without words, for our Lord is the only One with the power to transform and heal.
And here’s the sweetness at the end of it all:
Tonight, Nick left to go on tour again with the band at our church (it’s part of his job) and I noticed after he left that his laundry basket was empty. I looked and sure enough, he had put his clothes away. My heart felt so full. I’ve been putting away his laundry for a few months now so he’s used to it, but tonight he put his laundry away just to bless me before he left town for a few days.
A few months ago I might have scoffed and thought, “Ugh. Finally!” but all I could think tonight when I saw that empty laundry basket was that my husband is superman and I am the most blessed woman in the world.
I was reminded of this quote by Kaylene Yoder, and it’s profoundly true.
“When Jesus became enough, my husband became more than I dared hope he would be.”
When you surrender to Christ, God takes the things that used to rile up your sin nature and He turns them around to be a blessing on both you and your marriage.